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Lowering the boom

by Torie Peterson / Calgary Flames



CALGARY, AB -- The NHL All-Star break is something Calgary Flames defenceman Cory Sarich is quite ambivalent about.

"It's good for the body," he said. "I think this one (season) especially. You've pounded yourself for four-plus months and the body could use a rest.

"Sometimes mentally, I don't really enjoy the break. I'd rather just keep at it. That way, you're fresh. You're smart. But as far as from a physical standpoint, I think it's kind of necessary."

It's easy to see why Sarich might be in need a bit of rest and relaxation. The bruising blueliner has been a physical force for his club, leveling opposition players 23 times this month alone. In December, he dished out 24 checks and averaged 2.66 hits per game.

Despite his in-your-face style of play, the veteran has been extremely disciplined. He has only taken one minor penalty this month - a hooking infraction on Jan. 10th in a 6-3 victory over the New Jersey Devils.

He prides himself in playing with an edge but not crossing the line. Throughout his career, Sarich has knocked many a player to the ice but he has never been suspended and only has a handful of elbowing minors to his name.

In fact, the only blemish on his resume came this year when he was fined for a hit on Ottawa's Erik Condra.

"I have to be physical to be successful," he surmised. "I try to provide that (physical presence) whenever I can."

The 33 year-old has taken on the role of mentor to youngster TJ Brodie. The two have been paired together for the bulk of the season, providing steady, dependable play for the Flames night in and night out.

"Him and Brodes have really found a niche playing together," head coach Brent Sutter said earlier this month. "It's really helped Brodes having a steadying influence back there, a guy that's a stay-at-home guy. A guy that's good with him on the bench, talks to him. Just that leadership part of it, that experience part of it.

"And through that, it's helped us develop Brodes the way he needs to be developed. It can't just come through coaching. It's got to come from inside the locker-room, too, to help these kids."

Even though he will be letting various bumps and bruises heal, Sarich isn't planning on spending the next five days lounging around. Just because he won't be making his usual daily trip to the rink doesn't mean he won't be hitting the gym.

"The biggest thing is the physical conditioning because if you feel good physically, the mental side of the game - for me - comes easier. So I think that's a huge thing. Just making sure the legs and everything are still once we hit the ice again.

"I just physically try to stay ready. That's the biggest thing. It goes by so fast that it hardly feels like a break. The days seem to fly by."

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