Players, coaches adapt to NHL's new condensed schedule

Players, coaches adapt to NHL's new condensed schedule

These days, Brian Campbell doesn’t do much on his off nights.

If he’s not playing hockey, he’s spending as much time as possible with family. And whatever spare time he has after that, well, he’s resting.

“I’ll have friends and neighbors say, ‘Hey you want to go for dinner?’ Not a chance,” Campbell said to laughs. “I don’t want to do anything right now. I want to be at home, whether we cook or order in. It has been, at times, exhausting. It’s not much of a life outside of what’s going on.”

The Blackhawks are currently enjoying their bye week after playing 57 games through Feb. 11. Thanks to World Cup and a bye week for each team, the NHL schedule has been condensed this season. That’s offered its challenges, its various effects on players and coaches and differing opinions.

Minnesota Wild coach Bruce Boudreau admitted he’s had to adjust. The usual way he does things just aren’t going to fly this season. Looking at the Wild’s record, the changes apparently haven’t hurt them.

“There are a lot of tired players and we’ve had fewer practices than any time I’ve ever been a coach in this league,” Boudreau said at the All-Star weekend. “We finished nine games in 15 days [before the break] and we never practiced the other six days because you can’t kill the guys, especially your better players. If you’re asking them to practice for 30 minutes and then asking them to play for 25 minutes, it’s a pretty daunting task.”

As for players on other teams, some love the schedule and some don’t.

“There aren’t too many guys in this league who are big practice guys. We want to play,” said Dallas defenseman Jordie Benn, who added he hasn’t changed his daily routine much. “We want to be out there on the ice. For me, personally, it’s not that big of a deal.”

Fellow Stars defenseman John Klingberg talked of the Stars’ early hectic schedule, in which the team wasn’t playing well and dealt with a lot of injuries. He thought a few on-ice sessions may have been beneficial at that time.

“We didn’t practice almost at all and at that time, when we struggled, we really needed to practice,” Klingberg said. “It was tough because we wanted to keep the energy going for the games. At the same time, you want to get practices in so you have the feeling with hands and feet. That’s something I felt earlier in the year that I needed more of. I was trying to skate as much as I could but there weren’t a lot of scheduled practices.”

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With that, let’s look at the Blackhawks.

Considering how coach Joel Quenneville runs a practice schedule, it seems like the Blackhawks have been prepping for a season like this since the 2012-13 lockout. That year, when teams were playing roughly every other day in that 48-game schedule, Quenneville started eliminating a lot of practices. Part of that was the Blackhawks’ success: they got off to a 21-0-3 start, so why practice? But it was also about conserving energy. Even now he keeps his practices to about 35 minutes.

“Through the history of being around this team, it’s proven that rest is important and practices can be overrated,” Quenneville said with a laugh. “Our guys have played a lot of games, our older guys, for sure, and meaningful games. And we find we’re at our best when we’re rested and come ready to play the games and use time away from the rink to get re-energized, freshened up. Sometimes I think playing games is the right time to let it all out there.”

Still, it’s ultimately about the individual. Marian Hossa will take some practices and skates off, saving his energy for games. He’s having a great season, sharing the team’s goal lead with Artem Anisimov (20 for each). This is also coming off World Cup, in which Hossa played plenty of minutes for tournament runner-up Team Europe.

“It’s good to practice here or there but when you have so many games, I think the most important thing toward the end of the year is rest,” Hossa said. “We’re pretty lucky we have that, and I think we also have had good results off that. It seems like it works.”

Patrick Kane doesn’t take many skates or practices off but he has added something new to his repertoire: cryotherapy. In the therapy, be it whole-body or localized, a person is exposed to subzero temperatures for a few minutes.

“I think it has helped me, especially to do that in Chicago every off day, so it’s been good. I feel like fresh on the ice, which is good,” Kane said. “I think you try out different things to help your body or get yourself to recover a little bit faster than other times if you have more days off.”

So has the schedule had an effect on game outcomes, from the lopsided scores to those with double-digit goal totals? Boudreau believes it has.

“I’m sure everyone has theories,” Boudreau continued, “but my thought is, this is why there are so many discrepancies in so many of the games, be it 7-1, 5-1, 6-5 or 8-7.”

It could be debated. Some of the most lopsided scores (Columbus’ 10-0 victory over Montreal, Los Angeles’ 7-0 decision over Toronto and Winnipeg’s 8-2 victory over Dallas) came within the first month of the regular season. Seems that would be too early to blame a schedule. But there have been some outlandish outcomes recently. The Penguins 8-7 overtime victory over the Washington Capitals on Jan. 16 comes to mind. The next night, the Stars beat the New York Rangers 7-6. The Toronto beat the Islanders 7-1 on Tuesday.

“You look at the schedule this year, a tougher schedule. You see a few more blow outs, you wonder if that has anything to do with it,” Kane said. “Who knows?”

As coaches and players love to say, the schedule is what it is. But there’s no doubt it’s been busier this season, and everyone is doing what they can to adjust.

“Sometimes you have long road trips that might catch up to you with the travel or things like that. But even then, you’re not really thinking about it too much. You’re just trying to do what you can to get yourself ready for the next game,” Kane said. “I don’t think anyone thinks about it too much. It’s just we’re hockey players, we like playing games, so it’s a good thing.”

Blackhawks looking to break skid vs. Jets

Blackhawks looking to break skid vs. Jets

WINNIPEG, Manitoba – The Blackhawks reversed their regular-season woes against the Minnesota Wild on Wednesday night. Now they’ll try to do the same against the Winnipeg Jets on Friday night.

The Blackhawks have lost all four games to the Jets this season. Creating offense against Winnipeg has been a problem — it took them until Jan. 26 to score more than one goal against the Jets, and that was a 5-3 loss. In that game the Blackhawks finally fought their way to the net against a Winnipeg group that usually keeps them boxed out.

“We’ve done a pretty good job on this trip of finding a way to get screens, second opportunities by getting there,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “Tough loss last game. The first three games we didn’t play very well. Give them credit in all four games but certainly a tough loss against them last time. It looked like we were going to get something out of that game.”

The Blackhawks have won three in a row coming into this one and would like to put an end to the Jets’ hold on them much like they did the Wild’s.

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“Obviously for us it’s huge points-wise to try and get that extra point or two, edge-wise, against Minnesota,” Jonathan Toews said. “For us, we had a really rough season against Minnesota last year and we wanted to play better than we played against them in the first game of the year. So same goes for Winnipeg. It’s a team that has had a lot of success against us. We need to prepare better, we need to come out and have much more respect for that team and what they can do. They have a lot of offense and a lot of ability and they always play great in their building. We’ll have to be ready for that and bring our best game.”

Corey Crawford will get the start. Marian Hossa took the morning off but is expected to play.

Broadcast information

Time: 7 p.m.

TV: CSN

Live stream: CSNChicago.com

Blackhawks forward lines

Nick Schmaltz -Jonathan Toews-Richard Panik

Artemi Panarin-Artem Anisimov-Patrick Kane

Dennis Rasmussen-Marcus Kruger-Marian Hossa

Ryan Hartman-Tanner Kero-Vinnie Hinostroza

Defensive pairs

Duncan Keith-Niklas Hjalmarsson

Michal Kempny-Brent Seabrook

Brian Campbell-Trevor van Riemsdyk

Goaltender

Corey Crawford

Injuries

Michal Rozsival (lower body)

Jets forward lines

Andrew Copp-Mark Scheifele-Blake Wheeler

Nikolaj Ehlers-Bryan Little-Patrik Laine

Shawn Matthias-Adam Lowry-Joel Armia

Mathieu Perreault-Nicolas Petan-Drew Stafford

Defensive pairs

Tobias Enstrom-Dustin Byfuglien

Josh Morrissey-Jacob Trouba

Ben Chiarot-Paul Postma

Goaltender

Connor Hellebuyck

Injuries

Tyler Myers (lower body), Marko Dano (lower body)

Blackhawks looking for more consistent game vs. Stars

Blackhawks looking for more consistent game vs. Stars

DALLAS – Corey Crawford will get the start and Jordin Tootoo draws back into the lineup when the Blackhawks face the Dallas Stars on Saturday night.

The Blackhawks are coming off a 4-3 victory over the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday. In that game they were outstanding at the start before having a lousy second period. The Stars may be struggling with inconsistency and injuries but the Blackhawks know they can’t take them lightly.

“They gave us a really hard time last year. This year when you look at the lineup they still have so much firepower up front,” Marian Hossa said. “They’re dangerous on the power play so we have to be smart, play 5-no-5 as much as you can. And just don’t give the first line much room because it can shoot it so quick and it can hurt you.”

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The Stars are not that far off from a possible postseason berth and Stephen Johns said the Stars are confident they can get there.

“We all believe and we all know we’re going to somehow find a way to get in. That has to be our main focus going down the stretch,” Johns said. “We don’t want a four-or five-month summer. We want to be here as long as possible. It’s fun coming to the rink every day. It’s a great group of guys; we have a lot of fun together. The results haven’t been what we expected but there’s still time.”

Broadcast information

Time: 7 p.m.

TV: WGN

Radio: WGN 720 AM

Blackhawks forward lines

Nick Schmaltz -Jonathan Toews-Richard Panik

Artemi Panarin-Artem Anisimov-Patrick Kane

Dennis Rasmussen-Marcus Kruger-Marian Hossa

Ryan Hartman-Tanner Kero-Jordin Tootoo

Defensive pairs

Duncan Keith-Niklas Hjalmarsson

Gustav Forsling-Brent Seabrook

Brian Campbell-Trevor van Riemsdyk

Goaltender

Corey Crawford

Injuries

Michal Rozsival (lower body)

Stars forward lines (via Dallas Morning News)

Jamie Benn-Cody Eakin-Patrick Eaves

Antoine Roussel-Tyler Seguin-Brett Ritchie

Devin Shore-Radek Faksa-Patrick Sharp

Curtis McKenzie-Adam Cracknell-Lauri Korpikoski

Defensive pairs

Esa Lindell-John Klingberg

Dan Hamhuis-Jordie Benn

Patrik Nemeth-Stephen Johns

Goaltender

Kari Lehtonen

Injuries

Jason Spezza (upper body), Johnny Oduya (lower body), Jamie Oleksiak (hand), Mattias Janmark (knee), Ales Hemsky (hip)