For Blackhawks, missing practice is a good thing
BY MARK LAZERUS email@example.com January 26, 2013 9:56PM
Updated: February 28, 2013 7:11AM
COLUMBUS, Ohio — For the Blackhawks, no practice makes perfect.
With six games in nine days to start the season, the Hawks haven’t held a full practice since the season began last Saturday in Los Angeles, as coach Joel Quenneville has made each day off a true day off for his players.
It’s a dramatic — but necessary — departure from his usual policy of one day off a week during the season. Even morning skates on gamedays have been running less than a half-hour.
“In a season like this, rest can be a weapon,” forward Jamal Mayers said.
The strategy has paid off with a perfect start to the young season.
“I think we find that [after] days off, they have more pace to their game than when we do skate,” Quenneville said after Saturday’s morning skate.
“When we seem to be going every day, it seems like practices don’t have the same intensity. So we’ll make sure we have enough rest going into games, and we’ll gauge our schedule and how they’re feeling to [decide] that accordingly. But we don’t anticipate having a lot of practice days this year.”
Of course, it’s easy to say that when the team’s winning. When the Hawks drop a game or two, Quenneville’s attitude might change. But he doesn’t think so. In fact, he doesn’t think he has a choice.
“With a lot of travel days, practicing and rushing off to the plane, it might be better just to stay away from the rink for that day,” he said. “Based on how we’re starting, I could even foresee fewer practice days as we go along.”
Naturally, that’s fine with the players.
“Seems like all we’re doing is morning skate and then game,” winger Viktor Stalberg said. “So that’s not a bad thing. But we’ll want to get some practice in there eventually, too.”
Indeed, the drawback is there’s not much time to work on set plays, special teams and other areas that always have room for improvement. Defenseman Nick Leddy said the Hawks’ coaching staff has been leaning heavily on video during team meetings to help mitigate the loss of practice time, and Quenneville said the morning skates have been useful for fine-tuning things.
But that lack of practice time would affect a team such as the Columbus Blue Jackets — loaded with new faces — more than it would the Hawks, who added only two players during the offseason.
“We’re fortunate in that we don’t have as many new faces, so a lot of guys understand the terminology and what kind of system we’re playing,” Mayers said. “That familiarity brings about comfort. We’ve all played under this system, so that makes it a lot easier.”