Welcome long weekend

STEVE MACFARLANE -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 10:05 AM ET

Bumps and bruises be gone.

After playing 31 games in 67 days to open their 2005-06 NHL season, Calgary Flames players get a welcome reprieve with almost a week before their next contest.

Head coach/GM Darryl Sutter gave his charges three days off to recuperate before hitting the ice Wednesday morning in preparation for Saturday's game against the Boston Bruins at the Saddledome.

"We were coming back from a long trip and a lot of guys are banged up and healing up," said Sutter after his Flames eked out a 2-1 overtime victory against the Ottawa Senators Saturday night. "(Now) you get three days of recovery and three days of practice."

Because of the compressed Olympic-year schedule, every Flame will benefit from a few days of putting his feet up.

Perhaps none more than grinder Darren McCarty.

McCarty hasn't let an ankle injury affect his play but evidence of his suffering is obvious in his hobble.

"It couldn't come at a better time for us," McCarty said of the break. "Guys like myself are looking to use it as time to heal up."

The 33-year-old has been sporting a moulded boot on his swollen ankle and is looking forward to a little rest and relaxation.

"I got hit with a puck. Took a shot off it and it hasn't been given a chance to heal," said McCarty. "It's been a pain in the butt for a while but this next week, get off it for a few days and I'm sure it'll help."

Another reputable shot-blocker who has managed to play well despite limping his way around off the ice is Marcus Nilson.

Nilson says all his teammates will enjoy the next few days.

"It's going to be nice," said the Swede. "I think any time you can get some time off, it's good for you to heal up and re-focus mentally. It'll be nice for us. Through the whole season, you always have little aches and pains here and there. I'm (sure) everybody does, so hopefully (we can) take care of those during this week."

Some teams around the league had breathing room in their schedules earlier in the season. The Flames, though, are happy to have their break this close to the holidays.

Their 18-9-4 record may have a little something to do with that.

"I'd rather have it now. It's been a tough schedule," said Nilson, who made no plans other than to give himself a little R&R.

McCarty, who is accustomed to battling through traffic around opposition nets, will have to fight a different type of crowd while waiting to return to the ice -- Christmas congestion at the mall.

"(I'll be) getting Christmas shopping -- and all that stuff for everybody coming in -- getting all that done," he said. "I've got a list so I'm taking that time to do that before all my company comes in."

Like Nilson, McCarty is appreciative of the schedule-makers' timing.

"I think it's coming at a good time for us. Not only near Christmas but after 30 games ... some early season injuries," said McCarty. "It gets a little bit more gruelling after this break, too, so you bet everybody's going to enjoy the week."


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