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Rest is a Weapon for the Canes

Niederreiter: 'It's great to get a little recovery going and go right back at it'

by Michael Smith @MSmithCanes / Hurricanes.com

I'm going to be honest. I woke up today thinking I had forgotten to write a game preview.

Instead, Saturday, March 6 was just a practice day for the Carolina Hurricanes.

An informal straw poll around the locker room showed that I wasn't alone. Other players and staff had similar thoughts running through their minds this morning.

"I had to check our team app just to make sure everything was right and I was headed to the right place," Jaccob Slavin said. "It's crazy that it seems like every other day we're playing a game. You grind through it."

"You're in such a rhythm. Even today, I wasn't sure what day exactly it was," Nino Niederreiter said. "It felt great, and everyone is excited for tomorrow to keep going."

The Canes have been playing at least a game every other day since Feb. 11. It was a stretch of 13 games in 22 days, one game every 1.69 days. It was a frantic pace, one of the densest stretches of the season, and everyone's body - even those of us who were simply covering these games - had settled into a rhythm.

Saturday, the body said, should be a gameday. But it wasn't, and that was a welcome reprieve, especially to the mind.

"It was like Groundhog Day. Prepare, play, prepare, play. And we were on the road forever, too. … It's just tough, I guess is the way I'd put it, mentally," head coach Rod Brind'Amour said. "Guys being able to go home, be with their families and have a normal routine for a couple of days is probably what they needed."

It was just over a week ago when it sounded like Brind'Amour was dropping bars from a Smash Mouth classic.

"The games just keep coming," he said.

And they don't stop coming.

So, any sort of break - especially two days in between games, about as luxurious as it gets in this 56-game sprint - is valuable time to reset and refresh.

"It's huge. My body feels pretty good today. That's a treat, and it's huge mentally," Slavin said. "We take those days when we can to enjoy them away from the rink with family and get our minds off the game a little bit."

This two-day gap in between hosting the Detroit Red Wings and Florida Panthers is the Canes' first of four such breaks this month. In March, the Canes play 14 games in 30 days, or one game every 2.14 days. The Canes knocked out their only back-to-back set of the month earlier this week, and the remaining March schedule is just 12 games in 27 days, or one game every 2.25 days. In either case, it's a leisurely pace relative to what came before it and how the Canes will finish the season.

In April and May, the Canes will play 22 games in 40 days, or one game every 1.82 days. There's just one two-day gap in between games, and the team will play four back-to-backs. The upside to the otherwise hellish pace is that 13 of the Canes' 22 games will be played at home, including a season-long, eight-game homestand in the first half of April.

The Canes don't analyze such a satellite-level view of the road ahead. As Brind'Amour and head strength and conditioning coach Bill Burniston have said, "We're big on going 1-0 and focusing on today."

Friday was an off day. Saturday, contrary to the body's hunches, was a practice day. Sunday is a gameday. Tuesday is a gameday. Thursday is a gameday. And then the Canes get another two days in between games.

Rest is a weapon, and this month is maybe the Canes' best chance to use it to their advantage.

"It actually feels great," Niederreiter said. "It's amazing how it feels when you're just right at it the whole time and then you have two days in between. It feels like forever. It's great to get a little recovery going and go right back at it."

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