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Canes Balancing Work, Rest During Break

High-tempo practices, days off highlight five-day gap in schedule

by Michael Smith @MSmithCanes /

In the grind of an 82-game season, it's rare to find a break of more than a few days on the schedule.

And though it's only the third week of the 2019-20 regular season, an extended gap between games has already landed on the Carolina Hurricanes' calendar.

Five days separate the Canes' last game in Anaheim on Oct. 18 and their next game in Columbus on Oct. 24, a quirk of a schedule that's already seen the team play three sets of back-to-back games.

"It's kind of weird, but for me personally and as a team, too, I think we needed this as a rest. Get our minds off hockey for a little bit," Sebastian Aho said after practice on Monday. "I think it's good for us, but it's definitely kind of weird."

From now until the end of the season, the Canes won't go longer than four days between games (Feb. 29-March 5), with the exception of the All-Star break and bye week combo in late January.

In this five-day gap between games, the Canes have carefully crafted a schedule that balances the benefits of such an extended break and also safeguards against the potential downsides.

"It's based on the health of our group, number one. We've got to try to focus on the game Thursday, and a couple guys still need a little rest," head coach Rod Brind'Amour said on Monday. "You kind of have to base it around that and make sure we're getting that rest. We'll crank it up again, and hopefully we're all good to go on Thursday."

Video: Rod Brind'Amour: "Make sure we're getting rest"

The Canes took Saturday off after touching down from a red-eye flight in Raleigh as the sun peeked over the horizon. The team practiced at Raleigh Center Ice on Sunday morning and then put in a good hour's worth of work back at PNC Arena on Monday.

"High-tempo practices. We get some off-ice workouts, too," Aho said. "You can get good practices in and work on the little things."

Another day off on Tuesday will follow.

"Relax," Aho smiled. "Try to not think about hockey and get some rest, for sure."

The Canes will practice again on Wednesday before boarding then an afternoon flight bound for Columbus.

By then, the hope is that the Canes will have a clean bill of health. Erik Haula, the team's leading goal-scorer (7), left Friday's game in the second period with an upper-body injury (important: not a concussion) and did not return. Brind'Amour has since been optimistic about Haula's prognosis, though the forward has not practiced yet this week.

"We will probably give him a couple days to rest. The schedule kind of permits us to just rest him," Brind'Amour said Sunday. "I don't anticipate him being out, though."

Forward Ryan Dzingel was another did-not-practice on Sunday, but he returned to the ice Monday, a good indication of where he's at health-wise.

When the Canes take the ice in Columbus on Thursday, the Blue Jackets will have played twice in the same five-day game-less segment for the Canes.

With that in mind, is there any concern of not being as sharp or game-ready?

"I don't believe that stuff because it's only five days. It's not five months," Aho said. "For sure, it helps when you keep your tempo up so when the games come after this break, it's not a shock to the body, either."

Until the puck drops next, the Canes will rest hard and practice harder, taking advantage as best they can of a seemingly random extended gap in the schedule with the goal of rebounding from a tough end to their three-game California road trip.

"We watched some video yesterday and closed that. It's over now. We look forward. That's how it is in this league. There are so many games," Aho said. "When you lose, you lose, and you have to move forward, and when you win, you can't really feel too good about yourself because there's always another game."

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