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Physical, mental battle ahead for Flames

by Aaron Vickers / Calgary Flames

CALGARY, AB -- There’s no doubt playing 48 games in the span of 97 days is tough on the body.

The wear-and-tear of a regularly scheduled National Hockey League season is enough to send multiple players to the infirmary on a regular basis. A compressed, condensed season that will see the Calgary Flames essentially play every second day will only serve to amplify the toll players will take this season.

But is the shortened season equally as exhausting mentally?

According to head coach Bob Hartley, his Flames are in for a draining experience on both sides of the coin.

“It’s going to be basically an ultimate challenge,” Hartley said. “I don’t know if we can call this a triathlon or whatever but with the traveling, the standings will be very tight for sure because there’s less games. Yes, there’s going to be pressure physically. Mentally it’s going to be a battle but that’s why we’re pro athletes, pro coaches. We will do the best to take care of our athletes.”

The schedule is punishing from a physical perspective. The lack of downtime between games poses a daunting mental challenge. For Calgary defenceman Cory Sarich, both factors will come into play over the campaign and both need to be properly managed to ensure a successful product on the ice.

“It’s going to be a little bit of both, it’s going to be a grind,” Sarich said, “One night you’re playing Chicago and then we’re back here playing Colorado the very next night. There’s a few crazy ones like that, but we’re just happy to be playing so we’ll put up with anything.”

Surviving the physicality of a 60-minute battle and being able to decompress after each will be critical for Calgary’s success. Leaving yesterday in the rearview is crucial for tackling tomorrow.

At least it will be for new Flame Dennis Wideman.

“I think whenever you’re playing this sport, you have to have a pretty short memory,” he said. “You take your hour after the game when you’re still at the rink to go over, good or bad, what happened that night. After that, it should be off and get ready for the next one.”

It’s the physical aspect of playing back-to-back nine times and taking 11 road trips in just over 13 weeks that has Calgary’s freshest face on the blueline a little more concerned, though.

“I find it easier when you’re playing over and over and over again,” Wideman said. “You just stay in that game mode when you’re playing every other day. I think it’ll be good that way. Being there’s only 48 games everyone knows it’s like the playoff drive, the last two months of the season. You have no problems getting up for that. It’s going to be a workload on the body but everybody had lots of time to get in shape so hopefully they’re ready for it.”

Ready to run both a physical and mental marathon, the drain is inevitable, but a pain that can be washed away with the club’s first playoff berth in four years.

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