Game, off day, practice, practice. Game, off day, practice, practice. Game.
Players love to play, so you can imagine how the Chicago Blackhawks are anxious to get more games and fewer practices.
“A lot of practicing, but the schedule is what it is,” Marian Hossa said. “You have to be focused. When you get to another game, you want to be mentally ready for it.”
The Blackhawks have been pretty sharp in most facets in their first two games. But for hockey players, creatures of habit and routine, you just can’t play enough. So the Blackhawks, like some other NHL teams with sporadic game calendars, will muddle through this rather spacious early schedule.
“It’s a little weird, actually, considering how last year was for us,” Andrew Shaw said, referring to the game-laden lockout schedule. “But it means we bring more energy in every game and compete to the best of our ability.”
[MORE: Five musings from the Blackhawks' start]
Yes, it’s a double-edged sword to have so few games to start. For players like Marian Hossa, Michal Rozsival and Michal Handzus, who dealt with big injuries — and in some cases, procedures — to end their Stanley Cup run, these extra days are a chance to stay fresh, get rest and heal. But, as coach Joel Quenneville has said many times, players love to play, and everyone sounds ready to get back to that game-every-other-day routine.
“The league right now has gotten off to a slow first week and a half, then it picks up to a different pace. That’s the way it is,” Quenneville said. “We want to make sure we’re ready going into games and fresh. Then again, later in the season you’ll say, ‘Jeez, we could’ve used some of those days inserted in between these games.’ But our guys are fine.”
The Blackhawks will be busy soon enough, as they have 18 back-to-backs this season — New Jersey has the most with 22. They’re ready to get back into that game-laden routine, and won’t have to wait much longer. Until then, they’ll take advantage of the early rest and keep their minds on the next game day — when it does arrive.
“It’s something you have to be prepared for. Some are playing every other night or back-to-back, but we have plenty of those coming,” Brandon Saad. “We’re enjoying our days off right now but we have to stay focused.”