Canes Air was a little lighter en route to Raleigh on Saturday afternoon, as a number of players scattered about from Dallas for a mini February vacation.
The Carolina Hurricanes' five-day bye week has begun and runs through Thursday. Introduced this season and bargained by the Players' Association in exchange for the new 3-on-3 All-Star tournament format, the bye week is a rest period - no games, practices or official team activities - that occurs for each NHL club during any five-day segment in either January or February.
Before the Bye
The Hurricanes earned six of a possible 10 points in their five-game stretch prior to the bye week, and the team was unfortunately not able to head into the break on a high note after losing 5-2 in Dallas on Saturday afternoon.
"If we can gather six, seven, eight points in every five-game segment, I think we'll give ourselves a chance," head coach Bill Peters said.
As of the completion of the NHL schedule through Saturday night, teams have recorded a combined 13-4-0 record in their final games prior to the bye week. Two of those losses (Ottawa and Philadelphia) were in Washington, where the Capitals have now won 12 straight games. Five of the 13 victories required extra time, while each of the four losses occurred in regulation.
During the Bye
While the players will undoubtedly find their own solace away from the rink, it can't all be rest and relaxation.
"You've got to use those five days wisely. You've got to do more than just sit on the beach, and guys know that," Peters said. "We just want to make sure guys look after themselves. That's the biggest concern. They've got to know they're going to hit the ground running. We play a lot of hockey when we come back off the bye."
Even something as simple as finding a tennis court will keep the legs moving and body active, Peters explained.
"Everyone I've talked to said, coming out of the break if you haven't done enough just to stay in shape you've got no chance to skate and you make it real hard on yourself. It's a challenge for sure and a little bit of a test of maturity," he said. "You can still stay active and recharge the batteries."
Peters' bye week plan consists of heading to Quebec to watch the Jr. Hurricanes compete in the annual pee-wee tournament.
"I'm just going to be a hockey dad, catch some games and spend some time with some of those parents and players. It will be fun," he said. "It's awesome. There's no pressure. It's fun. You get to see those kids' growth as people and players."
And, in not performing official head coaching duties, Peters doesn't have to answer questions from us members of the media. That's always a plus.
One thing for fans to consider during the bye week: the standings are going to fluctuate as other teams continue to play while the Hurricanes remain idle. It's incredibly likely that when the Canes return, they will be in last place in the Eastern Conference by virtue of points; points percentage could provide a more accurate reading of where the Canes stand, but in any case, they will have games in hand to make up as the season progresses.
"You can't worry about that stuff," Peters said of the standings and scoreboard watching. "You've just got to worry about gathering points."
After the Bye
The Hurricanes will return to the ice with a 4 p.m. practice at PNC Arena on Thursday. A 10:30 a.m. morning skate will follow on Friday before the Canes get back into game action against the Colorado Avalanche that night.
That game, the second half of a back-to-back set and the final game in a five-game eastern seaboard road swing for the Avs, is the beginning of a five-game homestand for the Hurricanes. Among the teams coming to town will be the Toronto Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators, two teams with which the Canes are jockeying in the standings. It's a crucial stretch of the season, one that could define how an incredibly busy March plays out.
"We're going to lose ground because we're off for a week, and it's going to look like a daunting task as you look at the paper," Peters said after Saturday's loss in Dallas. "You've got to just dig in, find a way and play well coming down the stretch."
Following a handful of days away from the rink, Friday's game against Colorado will certainly be a test. So will Sunday's game against Toronto, perhaps even more so. Of the 10 teams that have returned from their bye week, only three have been victorious in their first games back (3-6-1).
"Everyone says the first game you're running on adrenaline a little bit, excited to get back," Peters explained. "Then it hits you, especially playing a back-to-back. There's been a couple different scenarios and I've talked to a lot of guys, and they said they really felt it in game two. We've got to make sure we're prepared to handle it."
If post-All-Star break was any indication, the team should return refreshed, refocused and recharged for the stretch run.
"They did a good job through the All-Star break looking after themselves and being ready to skate when we came back," Peters said. "We have to skate to be effective, so make sure you're doing the right things on your time off."