SUN Hockey Pool

Kostopoulos travel weary

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:53 PM ET

You can excuse Tom Kostopoulos if he couldn’t figure out where he was over the past few weeks.

Considering all the travel and never-ending hotels he’s lived in since NHL training camps opened in mid-September, it would be understandable if the Flames forward has become somewhat disoriented.

Home may be where the heart is, but Kostopoulos hasn’t seen much of his.

“I haven’t seen my family a lot. It’s been tough, that way. I feel like I’ve talked to my kids on Skype more than I’ve seen them, but that’s part of the job,” Kostopoulos said of his vagabond lifestyle the last few months. “You just have to manage.”

Which has meant plenty of restaurant food instead of family dinners.

Kostopoulos, as well as Flames teammate Anton Babchuk, had a whale of a travel schedule to start the season, and that was before the Nov. 17 trade brought them to Calgary from the Carolina Hurricanes.

The Hurricanes opened the season with games in Helsinki, Finland, against the Minnesota Wild. By the way, that two-game season-opening series followed an exhibition tilt in St. Petersburg, Russia.

But that wasn’t enough time away from home, apparently, for the Hurricanes.

A short stint in North Carolina didn’t mean a home game. Instead, they continued the regular season with clashes in Ottawa, Vancouver San Jose, Los Angeles and Phoenix before the Hurricanes held their home-opener Oct. 27.

“It was crazy to see our first home game wasn’t until then,” Kostopoulos said. “You get to make it up, at least, with a couple of stretches of four or five at home.”

Well, the Hurricanes will. He won’t.

“Yeah, that changed in a hurry,” he said with the smile. “It’s one of those things you’ve got to deal with.”

Less a month later, the pair were en route to join the Flames, a team in the midst of a travel heavy schedule.

Since Kostopoulos and Babchuk joined the Flames, the team has played just four home games, compared to seven road dates — five in the Eastern time zone and two others in the Central.

They headed out Wednesday for back-to-back games in Los Angeles and Anaheim to end this week.

“It’s been a whirlwind, but I think we’re managing OK,” said Kostopoulos, who scored his first goal for the Flames in Tuesday night’s 4-2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning. “I think in the first couple of games we played, our legs were tired, but I think we’ve caught up and feel better.”

Curiously, Kostopoulos’s family — wife Lisa and children Lily and Luc — arrived in Calgary Monday.

As for Babchuk, his family — wife Natalya and five-month-old son, Anton — still remain in Carolina, but are planning to make their way to Calgary soon.

“I really miss them, but what can you do?” Babchuk said.

The positive of all the travel since joining the Flames is both players have been able to bond with their new teammates.

“It takes a while for the coaches to see what you can bring and the player to get used to the coaches, but hopefully it’s building,” Kostopoulos said.

It’s also been a reminder about the difference between the NHL’s two conferences.

“It’s more physical,” Kostopoulos said of the Western Conference style. “I don’t know if I’d say faster, but they’ve got good pace. Brent (Sutter) told me every night would be a war, and it seems there are no blowout games in the West. So many are 2-1, 3-2.

“In the East, and the Southeast Division, there are a lot more 5-1 games.”

randy.sportak@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/RandySportak


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