The Carolina Hurricanes have a road game Saturday against the Dallas Stars.
And then …?
Officially, the Hurricanes will take a break for their five-day NHL bye week. The players are given five unencumbered days off, with no hockey duties or activities. Strictly R&R.
In the Canes’ case, the next scheduled practice is Thursday, after 4 p.m. That’s allowed with a game the day after the bye week ends – in the Canes’ case, Friday at home against the Colorado Avalanche.
The Florida Panthers ended their bye week Wednesday and faced the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday in Sunrise, Fla. The Kings took a 6-1 lead and won 6-3.
Such is the fear NHL coaches have about the bye week, something new this season that was hatched up by the NHL and NHL Players Association. There’s much uncertainty.
“Just making sure guys look after themselves is the biggest concern,” Canes coach Bill Peters said Friday. “They’ve got to know they’re going to hit the ground running and play a lot of hockey when we come back.
“They did a good job through the (NHL) All-Star break, looking after themselves and being ready to skate when they came back. We have to skate to be effective, so it’s making sure you’re doing the right things on your time off.”
The Canes won three straight games after the All-Star break, topping the Philadelphia Flyers and following with wins over the Edmonton Oilers and New York Islanders before a road loss to the Washington Capitals.
Several of the Canes players will scatter after the Stars game. Jordan Staal, for example, said he will take his family to his hometown of Thunder Bay, Ont. “Beautiful snowy and cold Thunder Bay,” Staal said, smiling.
Justin Faulk is headed to Minnesota for some ice-fishing. Derek Ryan said he and his family are going to Myrtle Beach and Charleston, S.C. Lee Stempniak and his family may stay put in Raleigh.
Peters said he will have a check list of the players and their plans, just to keep track.
“It’s a challenge, for sure. It’s a little test of maturity,” Peters said. “You can be in nice spots but you can always get a workout in. You can always play tennis. You can still stay active.”
The bye weeks were scheduled for January and February (Anaheim’s ends March 2). The NHLPA agreed on it as part of changing the NHL All-Star format to a three-on-three divisional tournament.
Some coaches and general managers would prefer the time off be more uniform within the league. Pittsburgh Penguins general manager and former Canes GM Jim Rutherford has suggested the five days be split up, adding a few more days to the NHL’s Christmas break and the All-Star break.
Another suggestion is that a team’s bye week be scheduled just before or after the All-Star break, splitting up NHL teams. Or the Olympic break next year, if there is one.
“Sounds like that might be something that’s happening next year – half the teams before the break and half after,” Faulk said.
Before Friday’s games, the Canes (24-21-7) were five points out of playoff position in the NHL’s Eastern Conference as the Boston Bruins, with 60 points, slipped into the second wild-card playoff spot. No one can say how wide the point margin will be in another week, when the Canes resume the season, albeit with games in hand.
“There’s nothing you can do about that, but I’ll probably look at scores and stuff next week to see how things are going,” Faulk said.
The Canes play five straight at home after the bye week and are 17-6-1 at PNC Arena this season.
“Hopefully we can continue that and get off on the right foot like we did after the All-Star break,” Faulk said.
Carolina Hurricanes at Dallas Stars
When: 2 p.m., Saturday.
Where: American Airlines Center, Dallas.