This week's Big Question: How has the compacted schedule affected you?
Sidney Crosby, C, Pittsburgh Penguins: "You've got to just make sure you get your rest when you get the opportunity. Second half here, there's not going to be much time here to rest and relax. This is the fun part of the season, the second half, where the games become more important, teams become more desperate, everyone starts to raise their level of play. That gives you extra motivation, extra boost, but you have to manage the rest, too. It's going to be a lot of hockey coming up."
Tyler Seguin, C, Dallas Stars: "It's tricky. ... So far, the schedule's been grueling. I think everyone agrees. It's been a tough schedule, but I think you also have to remember that everyone else is going through it. But our November and our March, [they're] tense."
Mike Smith, G, Arizona Coyotes: "The bye week was nice when you're in it, but coming out of it, you've got seven games in 10 days and you look back on it and go, 'Oy, maybe that bye week wasn't so good.' ... Obviously, practice time would help with the younger squad, but there's nothing like playing in an NHL hockey game either, I think. We're playing a lot of games in a short period of time, guys are kind of learning on the fly."
Seth Jones, D, Columbus Blue Jackets: "You just find yourself playing more games more often. We have a lot of back-to-backs this year, 16 maybe, 14 back-to-backs this year, one of the most in the league this year. Get a lot of every-others, Monday-Wednesday-Friday-Sunday, so a lot of four-in-sixes, stuff like that. You definitely have to be on the top of your game. [Coach John Tortorella] does a great job of giving us off days. I think that's really important. We don't [do] pregame skate for the most part, unless we have a day off the day before. Torts has been awesome with that this year. He understands the rigors of the schedule. It's a businesslike approach when you come to the rink. When we get a day off the next day, you've got to be ready to go. It's not a country club there, it's a workforce, and when you're at the rink, you're on your game."
Cam Ward, G, Carolina Hurricanes: "It's been tough. You're not used to playing as much in a condensed schedule. You're seeing now it's kind of rare to practice and, to be honest, you've got to limit those just to save your body for the games, especially as an older guy [who's] playing a lot. You've got to make sure you're taking care of your body on and off the ice as best that you can, knowing that you're playing as many games."
Patric Hornqvist, RW, Pittsburgh Penguins: "It's tough when you play a lot of games in the short amount of time. You have to be focused every game and make sure you recover well. It's the same for the other 29 teams. It doesn't really matter. We're all in this boat together. I think the bye week is a good thing. We had our bye week and it was great: Get away from the game and don't think about it for four days and come back more energized and get going."
Brian Campbell, D, Chicago Blackhawks: "It's been a grind. I don't think you do a whole lot else in your life right now besides hockey, sleep and eat, and hopefully get some time with your family. It's definitely been compressed and you can tell. As players, we're all aware of it. You just do your work and go day by day. There's not a lot of practicing with our team and Joel does a good job trying to get us some rest. It is what it is and you just deal with it and move on."
Frans Nielsen, C, Detroit Red Wings: "It's almost [like] you haven't had time to think about it all. You've just been going. It's been a lot this year. I started out in Minsk playing the Olympic qualification and I went straight to the World Cup, and then missed camp and came right [in] and pretty much dropped the puck when we got here after the World Cup, and then it's just been going every second day. It's been hard this year. But you know what? Some ways, it's more fun playing games than practicing. It's been hard but it's the same for everyone so you can't make excuses from that. I think it's been all good."
Corey Crawford, G, Chicago Blackhawks: "You get these games where sometimes your team is tired [after] back-to-backs. We had 30 games in 60 days in November and December. Maybe some teams don't necessarily feel the effects right away, but then after you kind of have a tired team. Some guys might say they like it, they like playing and would rather play more and practice less, but it's hard. You almost see it some games, it's hard to keep that level where you're used to or you know teams can be at, and it's a little bit lower just because there are so many games that are played -- and you can include travel in that too. Honestly, it's a lot harder with the World Cup and packing it in. Maybe just expand the start to Oct. 1 and you go a little bit later, so that you're not crunching everything in and there's no time. Then there's the bye week, you have back-to-back before and back-to-back after. Everyone has an opinion on it and obviously [the league] does the best they can with building schedules and concerts. That comes into play too, right? You can't just set a schedule as good as you want and everyone is happy. It's hard. Basketball is there too and they're demanding stuff too. ... It would be nice to have a max three games a week. You could play Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, spread it out during the week, or have no games Monday and Tuesday. Max it out at three games a week. Teams are killing themselves."
Mark Giordano, D, Calgary Flames: "I like it. It feels like you're playing a lot more every other day. I like that. You can only practice so much, so as the year goes on, it gets old. I think our coaches do a great job, we usually [do] pregame skate and play. I think a lot of players would like that."
Ron Hainsey, D, Carolina Hurricanes: "Personally, if I could play every other day for two weeks and then maybe have two days [off] and then play every other day, that for me is ideal. It keeps me in the best physical condition I think, game-shapewise. And you're not getting overworked in practice, not that that's an issue, at least not here. It keeps you in a game-every-other-day mentality. Mentally, you don't have to think about what you're doing on the ice once you get into the bulk of the season -- it's just automatic, so mentally it's been an advantage. Everyone this year has a little bit of a stretch where it's really heavy, where maybe you go a month ... every other day and that's a grind mentally, just as much as physically, depending on the travel. But for the most part, a tighter schedule I've always preferred, to be honest with you."
Marian Hossa, RW, Chicago Blackhawks: "You just have to make the best of it. I feel like we're pretty lucky because we do have lots of days off between, and it's a great thing. We've got lots of guys who have played so much hockey for so many years, so giving us some time off is helping those guys to recharge and be fresh for the games."
Jeff Skinner, C, Carolina Hurricanes: "For us, come in March, you can ask us again and we'll be saying it's pretty tough because we've got a lot of games in not a lot of days coming down the stretch. But the way I look at it is every team has to deal with the scheduling issues and every team has to play the same amount of games in the same amount of time. For us, we're going to have stretches, especially coming down the stretch, where we're going to have to really be taking care of ourselves and try and get on a roll because we're going to be playing every other day."
Mike Sullivan, coach, Pittsburgh Penguins: "The challenge is you play a fair amount of games in a short period of time and you're always trying to balance winning each game as it comes with making sure you have the big picture in mind as well. I think from our standpoint, what we like about our team is we have the ability to use our bench. I don't think we overtax too many of our players because we believe in our depth. So, our guys are in a position where it hopefully will become a competitive advantage for our team because we use our bench the way we do."
Jeff Blashill, coach, Detroit Red Wings: "This league, it's real hard with the schedule, no matter what, to get the quality practice time ... to develop your players and to have proper structure. With the way the schedule has been this year ... it's really made it almost impossible. You have to constantly make decisions between practice and rest, and they have to have enough rest. The four days off really doesn't give you enough because of the schedule. It's certainly led to some interesting games that might be good for the NHL. It's not good for coaches sitting on the bench, but the 7-6 games and things like that, maybe it's a positive. We had one against Boston and I do think it has an effect for sure."
Joel Quenneville, coach, Chicago Blackhawks: "Well, we've had some real busy stretches where we try to stay off between game days and have a morning skate and try to stay fresh in games. We've got some days off. We've got the All-Star break. We've got our time in February. We've got some time in March that we can look to refresh as well. Every game has been different. Our top guys probably played a little bit more than they have in the past and we'll try to keep an eye on that going forward. Every game is different and we're playing to win that game, but at the same time, looking at the long-term season, and your objectives of trying to get into the playoffs and staying fresh is the priority. Every [team is] so close and trying to get into the playoffs and trying to manage rest in between."
Michel Therrien, coach, Montreal Canadiens: "In any sport for any athletes, they want to be on top of their game. Yes, they need to play, but they need to practice. ... Just this year, it's a little bit special with the schedule and we all go through that. All coaches [are] going to have to have more quality practices because sometimes we've got time to practice but we know that guys are drained and not mentally sharp to get some teaching. ... Obviously there's some games where there's a lot of mental breakdowns [by] teams. It could be a team who's more fresh than the other one and you just could tell, and it could be the opposite, and you start a game and you know your team [is] drained not only physically [but] likely mentally too, and they make mistakes that usually they don't make about execution, about positioning. When a team is fresh, they're sharp on everything."
-- Scott Burnside, Joe McDonald, Craig Custance, Pierre LeBrun