The Washington Times - December 26, 2011, 03:26PM

BUFFALO, N.Y. | It was beginning to feel a lot like the day after Christmas early in the Washington Capitals’ morning skate Monday. Two days off, and Jeff Halpern said the start was a little rough.

Anytime you have two days off, it’s amazing how quickly you kind of lose a rhythm,” he said.

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Monday is a different kind of challenge for the Caps, and nine other NHL teams that had to travel in the morning. It’s the only time all regular season or playoffs that the team travels the day of the game, a result of a piece of the collective bargaining agreement that prevents activities on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Just getting out of your routine is the most difficult part,” Halpern said. “It’s just not sleeping in the city, waking up early and catching a flight. Once you get a skate in and start sweating and then get a meal and a nap, it starts feeling more and more like a game.”

The game itself is an even playing field, as the Caps and Buffalo Sabres both got a couple days off for the holiday.

I think [Sabres coach Lindy Ruff] will be talking about, ‘Christmas is over, let’s get going,’ ” Caps coach Dale Hunter said. “The first period’s going to be key to the game.”

And while there’s the need to readjust to routine, Buffalo got to stay at home and enjoy rest.

I hope the guys took this time to really regroup, refocus and reenergize and basically rest for the couple days we had – stay away from the game, stay away from hockey and come in fresh,” forward Jason Pominville said. “Hopefully that’s the attitude everybody took into this break.”