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The Hurricanes took an extended break in the middle of their six-game road stretch this week before picking back up where they left off Friday night in Pittsburgh and Saturday night in Philadelphia.
At least, that’s what they’re hoping for. There has been some concern that, with the team playing so well through their three-game winning streak through Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal, a five-day break with no games might not be the best thing for the team’s momentum.
The team doesn’t seem overly concerned by that, however, instead using the time off to heal injuries, get some rest and get some solid, uninterrupted work in at practice.
”I certainly hope we come out and play the way we did in the three games prior,” said Coach Peter Laviolette. “We can’t do anything about it. We could have called the league and asked if we could play a game on Tuesday, but they probably wouldn’t let us.”
In lieu of game action, Laviolette used the time off to run some longer-than-usual practices at the RecZone to keep his team sharp. A lot of work was done on the power play in an effort to fine-tune a unit that is already clicking at 26.5 percent, good for second in the NHL behind Boston.
According to Laviolette, the players looked every bit as sharp in practice as they did last week in Canada.
”Today was just a quick-paced, up-tempo practice,” he said. “I really liked the jump that we had out there today. I thought we popped for 40 minutes. When you start practicing like that, it becomes habit.”
One of the players who benefited from the time off is defenseman Mike Commodore. After injuring his hip in the season opener against Montreal, he played through the pain a few days later against Pittsburgh before missing the next four games. After having the time off to rest, he says he should be ready to go for this weekend.
“If there were games Monday or Wednesday, I don’t know if I would have been able to go,” said Commodore. “If I had gone, there would have been more of a chance of me getting hurt. The timing is good for me to get my hip back and not miss too many games.”
Five days wasn’t enough time for winger Andrew Ladd, who will not travel with the team to Pennsylvania this weekend. He had been practicing with the team during the break, but couldn’t make it through all of Thursday’s session. Ladd injured his ankle against Washington and has missed the ‘Canes last three games.
Against Pittsburgh, the ‘Canes will face a team looking to avenge a 4-1 loss from the Hurricanes’ second game on October 5. Reigning league MVP Sidney Crosby was held pointless in that contest, although asking for the same this time could be asking too much.
”A player that good, they’re always going to get opportunities, but it’s how you limit them,” said defenseman Glen Wesley, who had considerable success against Crosby in the first game.
”He’s going to get his points, he’s too good of a player not to, you’ve just got to make sure to limit them,” said Commodore. “He can have his points, just at the right time and hopefully not too many. You just want to limit his opportunities and try to get him frustrated if you can by shutting him down.”