Monday, February 15, 2010

The Impact of an Olympic Break

The NHL is closed for business for 10 days, while several of the league's finest head off to Vancouver to don sweaters for their home country instead.

With the tightness of the standings and so many teams vying for that final playoff spot, you'd think the break would suck the wind out every team's sails.

"We can’t do anything now until the 24th," says Calgary Flames' coach Brent Sutter. He admits all his coaching staff can do is start planning the next days of practice before the first game off the break: March 3 versus Minnesota, which also happens to be the trade deadline.

The Flames sit one point above Dallas and Detroit in eighth spot in the Western Conference. They can also feel the breath of Anaheim, St. Louis, and Minnesota not far behind.

"Obviously, it’s got to be a strong push for the last 20 games. We need to play well. But it’s not like we haven’t been playing well. The last six games or so, we’ve actually played some pretty good hockey. We just weren’t scoring goals."

So if the timing is good for a break, it doesn't matter to Sutter.

"It is what it is. Everyone’s known when the winter break was going to be for quite some time now. No players can practice. Is it a good time? It’s not like some teams are doing it and some aren’t. Everyone is on the same grounds with it."

Many of the league's players that won't be in Vancouver will use this opportunity for some rare family time.

What is Eric Nystrom going to do during the break?

"Just a little vacation and relaxation, nothing too crazy."

If the players have trouble getting their legs back after the 10 days are up, Nystrom says the Flames, in particular, have plenty of motivation.

"You just look at the standings. One win is not going to get us out of the position we’re in. You need to string a lot of wins together. That’s not going to change over the break."

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