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Team Alfredsson and Team Chara shake hands after the NHL All-Star Game at Scotiabank Place in...

Team Alfredsson and Team Chara shake hands after the NHL All-Star Game at Scotiabank Place in Ottawa, Ont., Jan. 29, 2012. (TONY CALDWELL/QMI Agency)

CHRIS STEVENSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:19 PM ET

OTTAWA - The days at the beach, as tweeted by Capitals defenceman Mike Green from the Cayman Islands, are over.

The neon tans from Las Vegas will now start to fade.

The NHLs feel-good weekend here a resounding success which revolved around the emotional outpouring between Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson and Senators fans now becomes a fond memory.

Ahead is a 30-game sausage grinder that is the rest of the NHL season.

You need the break whether youre here or somewhere else doing something different. This is a part of the season the guys really look forward to, just to recharge the battery, said Maple Leafs winger Joffrey Lupul.

When you get back from this break, youre re-energized and you can kind of see the finish line. Youve got 30 games left and the games really start picking up in intensity and the games are more meaningful.

In the Eastern Conference, the Leafs are one of three teams with 55 points battling for the seventh-through-ninth spots. The Jets are in 10th place with 50 points and will need to do something special like find a way to win on the road to get back in the picture.

That leaves the Canadiens, Lightning, Islanders, Sabres and the Hurricanes already looking like sellers as the trade deadline, a little less than a month away, approaches.

In the West, things are tighter. Only three points separate five teams in the fight for the No. 8 spot with the Wild in eighth with 55 points, the Avalanche at 54 points and the Stars, Flames and Coyotes tied at 52.

The Ducks, Oilers and Blue Jackets can make plans to move some assets at the trade deadline and do some scouting for the draft.

From the sound of things in the Team Chara dressing room and around its bench at Sundays all-star game, getting the groove on for the last 30 games isnt going to be a problem for the Bruins.

Captain Zdeno Chara already had the intensity cranked up, barking at Flames forward Jarome Iginla for a late-game turnover. The all-star weekend might be an NHL schmooze-fest, but Chara, who saw his team beat Team Alfredsson 12-9, took things seriously.

'CONTINUES TO GROW'

This is a guy that continues to grow. Hes already been a great individual, a great athlete. He gets more polished all the time. What he did this weekend, they couldnt have picked two better ambassadors. They did a great job. They took it seriously, said Team Chara coach Claude Julien. They tried to make the right choices. Nothing was done quickly here. I think somebody said he spent over an hour putting players in their place (for the skills competition) and he always put himself last. Thats the kind of individual he is.

I told them if we win, youre taking the credit. If we lose, youre taking the heat. I think they were up there sweating after the second period. But what a great job. I was amazed. When they were making the lines, they were talking about why they were putting that guy here or there. They knew a lot about the players. Pretty impressive.

Now they want a real game this time. I said, youre going to have to wait a few years because Im getting paid (to do it), not you guys.

The banter is fading along with the nice ovation Senators fans gave Daniel Alfredsson after his first of two goals.

As intense as the first 50 games for each club have been so far, now it kicks up.

It kind of ramps up on its own. The guys realize what its all about. You start looking at the schedule and you can see it whittling down all the time, said Julien.

I dont care where you are (in the standings). For certain teams, its about finishing as high as they can. For other teams its about sneaking into the playoffs. Theres so much intensity and the teams that are out, a lot of guys are fighting for jobs and they want to be spoilers.

All the reasons are there for some interesting hockey in the last 30 games.

chris.stevenson@sunmedia.ca


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