Off-ice preparation will be key in shortened season
Flames get excited by their recently released 48-game schedule, as daunting as some spots may be
As cramped as any of the 48-game schedules out there, the Calgary Flames’ slate has its share of wrinkles, too.
Such as not starting the National Hockey League’s regular-season till Sunday — for most squads, opening night is Saturday — and thereby buying themselves an extra day of preparation.
Such as the luxury of having five of their first six dates at home, which, for a team known for its soft opening chapters, is a bonus.
Such as concluding the 2013 schedule with a four-game-in-six-day trip through Minnesota, Nashville, St. Louis, Chicago — the kind of junket that could derail any playoff-driving outfit.
Lots to consider.
“As far as we’re concerned, we knew it was going to be condensed, we knew that there were going to be back-to-backs,” Alex Tanguay said after Day 1 of training camp at the Scotiabank Saddledome. “We’re in the same situation that 29 other teams are. We feel good with our schedule. We feel lucky to be starting here at home. We feel lucky to have an extra day to practise (this Saturday).
“We’re anxious to get going.”
For the Flames, there are 48 dates in 97 days, which is to say a rather brisk pace.
“The schedule’s going to be busy right through,” Michael Cammalleri said. “It’ll be important for us to understand how to manage our game, manage our energy, and feel better than the other team does. The off-ice stuff will become even more significant in a season like this. The better you can sleep, the better you can eat, the better you can keep yourself hydrated . . . it’ll help you a lot on the ice.”
The Flames’ schedule, which keeps them busy from Jan. 20 to April 26, features this weekly spread — Monday (8), Tuesday (4), Wednesday (9), Thursday (5), Friday (9), Saturday (7) and Sunday (6).
But that’s not what catches Cammalleri’s eye.
“The first thing you look at is back-to-back games with travel,” said Cammalleri, whose squad is staring at nine back-to-back stretches. “Those are always the most difficult because it’s just hard to rest. You play a game, you fly, your biological clock is off, it’s hard to get to sleep, then you have to play again within 24 hours. Those, right away, jump out at you. Everything else? It’s circumstantial. If you’re feeling good that day and you can get a good night’s sleep, then you’re going to feel good. If not, you’ve got to find a way to do what you can for the team.”
Every bit as critical as keeping the body fresh is maintaining a sharp mind.
“It is more of a mental thing,” said Cammalleri. “If you can try to relax yourself away from the rink, then get the intensity up when you’re at the rink — that’s probably the most efficient way to do it. That’s one thing I learned in the playoff stretches — when I felt good was when I was able to really remove myself and disengage from the game when I wasn’t at the rink. Then it allows you to re-engage when you’re back.”
But everyone needs to figure out his own method.
It’s whatever gets you through the grind.
“It’s going to come down to the individual . . . to make sure that you do what’s best for you,” said Tanguay. “You get your recovery time. You be disciplined. You get your rest, your meals, at the same times. With such a condensed schedule, you don’t want to get through a phase of the year where your legs are a little bit more tired or you don’t feel quite as good as you’d like to. It’s going to go by fast and all points are certainly going to count.
“It’s exciting and it’s going to be a race all the way to the finish.”
Follow Scott Cruickshank on Twitter/CruickshankCH
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