Jeff Skinner went fishing. Jaccob Slavin and his wife went to Wrightsville Beach. Lee Stempniak stayed in Raleigh and relaxed with his family.
The NHL All-Star break gave the Carolina Hurricanes players, coaches and staff a chance to catch their breath, get away from hockey for a few days and gear up for the regular-season stretch run that begins Tuesday against the Philadelphia Flyers.
Not that everyone got away from hockey. Defenseman Justin Faulk represented the Canes at the All-Star Weekend in Los Angeles and was a member of the winning Metropolitan Division team in the three-on-three tournament.
Eddie Lack also had a productive — and for the Canes, important — couple of days on the ice. Activated from injured reserve, the goalie was sent to the Charlotte Checkers, the Canes’ American Hockey League affiliate, for a conditioning stint and played two games, facing 62 shots and allowing three goals in going 1-1.
“I feel like it was good for me, having not played in three months,” Lack said Monday. “I felt really good out there. I was seeing the puck well, tracking it. My body felt good.”
Lack, 29, said he suffered a concussion in practice when he fell behind the net playing a puck and hit his head on the boards. He was first placed on injured reserve Nov. 21, missing 14 games. He was activated Dec. 21 but again went on injured reserve Jan. 4, saying Monday that he sustained a second concussion before the Dec. 28 game at Pittsburgh.
“I tried to go with it, but after three or four days it kept getting worse,” Lack said. “I had to pull the chute there, too.”
Lack’s last start was Nov. 6 against the New Jersey Devils. His continued absence placed even more of the workload on veteran goalie Cam Ward, who played in 23 of 24 games from Dec. 4 to the All-Star break, starting 21 in a row.
“It’s been frustrating at times,” Lack said. “It’s my fourth season in the NHL, and I’d never missed a game before this. I felt I’d be like everyone else and be out five to seven days and then be back, but every concussion is different.”
Canes coach Bill Peters said Monday he would like to get Lack into a game sooner rather than later, saying, “He’s played twice now and feels good about his game.”
Ward will start against the Flyers, but the Canes then have a back-to-back set, hosting the Edmonton Oilers on Friday and playing a road game Saturday against the New York Islanders.
The Canes, who lost their last five games before the All-Star break, put in a 50-minute practice Monday at PNC Arena. There was special teams work, and Peters took a look at some new line combinations.
Skinner has been on a line with center Victor Rask much of the season but worked Monday with Derek Ryan at center and Stempniak on the right side. Rask had Brock McGinn and Teuvo Teravainen on the wings and Jordan Staal centered Sebastian Aho and Elias Lindholm.
“We need to get back to our game,” Rask said. “Switching up the lines can be a good thing sometimes. Hopefully it will be a good thing for us.”
The Canes (21-20-7) have been among the NHL leaders in fewest shots allowed per game, but that figure crept up in recent games – the Penguins had 41 in the 7-1 win over Carolina on Jan. 20.
Carolina was outscored 23-5 in the five-game slide and shut out 3-0 by the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday in the last game before the break.
“For us, finding our game is playing well defensively, skating and not getting in a track meet with other teams,” Stempniak said. “We’re a skilled team, but I don’t think we want to get into trading chances all night long,”
The Canes faced the Flyers twice in October, losing 6-3 in Philadelphia and 4-3 at home. The Flyers (25-19-6) are a team being chased, holding down the second wild-card playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with 56 points, seven ahead of Carolina.
“It’s huge,” Stempniak said. “We can reel them in a little or they can pull further away from us.”