When you played for seven different teams in 17 NHL seasons for a combined 1,143 regular season and playoff games, there is some sort of homecoming almost every night.
But returning home to Edmonton for the first time as the Philadelphia Flyers rookie head coach is extra special for 48-year-old Craig Berube.
"It's always great to see family and friends. It will be a lot of fun," said Berube, who hails from Calahoo, Alta., 50 kilometres outside Edmonton. His Flyers visit the Edmonton Oilers at Rexall Place Saturday on Hockey Night in Canada (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 10 p.m. ET).
"It's different coming back as a coach than as a player. I'm older now. The questions are different."
Berube has some questions about his team, too. Can his Flyers continue to progress as the team approaches the second-half of the season? Can his club perform better on the road? Can Philadelphia exhibit more discipline than it has shown in the first 37 games of the regular season?
"It took a while to get the system down," said Berube, who replaced Peter Laviolette after the Flyers stumbled out of the gate with three losses in a row and were outscored 9-3 in those three outings.
"I wanted them to play better defence and be better without the puck. Now they're out there skating. For me [the improvement] has been the skating part."
Berube spent the past five seasons as an assistant with the Flyers. His biggest adjustment in the move to head coach has been managing the players and being an effective communicator.
Back in contention
The Flyers have gone 17-13-4 under Berube, including a rough start in which the team managed just one victory in five starts after the coaching change.
With Berube, whose only head coach experience was 86 games at the helm of the AHL Philadelphia Phantoms five years ago, The Flyers have pushed themselves into a playoff spot, third in the weak Metropolitan Division.
Now Berube hopes to see better results on the road. The Flyers have gone 6-9-4 away from Philadelphia, 27th in the 30-team league. Only the Buffalo Sabres have fewer road wins this season with three in 17 starts.
"We've won nine in a row at home and we need to be a better road team," Berube said. "We need to be .500 or better on the road. It's something we're capable of."
Are the Flyers also capable of making fewer trips to the penalty box? They have taken on the persona of their undrafted head coach, whose 3,149 penalty minutes is seventh on the all-time NHL list. This season, the Flyers have been the most penalized team in the league at 17.2 penalty minutes, a three full minutes more per game than the next team.
Even though they rank 11th in penalty killing, the Flyers have been shorthanded 151 times so far. Only the Ottawa Senators have been forced to kill more penalties at 165.
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