Back to business

STEVE MACFARLANE -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:39 AM ET

After a brief but beneficial few days away from the rink, the Calgary Flames were forced back to full speed on the ice at the Saddledome yesterday.

The Flames beat the Ottawa Senators 2-1 last Saturday night to cap off a gruelling section of their schedule during which they went 18-9-4 over the first 67 days of the season.

With a break until Saturday's game against the Boston Bruins, the Flames were rewarded with three days off.

Upon their return yesterday, a 45-minute, skating-heavy session followed by off-ice workouts greeted the players.

"It's always a little rough but it was fine," said winger Darren McCarty of the first day back. "I think (GM/head coach Darryl Sutter) has a great grasp -- it was just a quick buzz, we did a good off-ice workout. (Today) we'll be back to work doing more systems stuff.

"I think the guys really enjoyed it. The spirits were up. The level might not have been there but the work effort was."

Flames captain Jarome Iginla knew what was coming after the longest in-season departure of his pro career.

"It was expected," he said, smiling widely. "It was kind of welcomed.

"Three days off was very exciting. Players appreciated it and needed it. I think the coaching staff recognizes we're a high-energy team and we've got to be rested. But now it's on us to get recharged. Today was the first day of that."

McCarty, who is nursing an ankle injury, said mental recuperation may have been as important as physical for a team that had played more games than most heading into their break.

"It was nice. I think, mentally, it's good to get away from the rink for a couple of days," said McCarty.

The Flames made the best of their rare holiday: Extra hours with friends and family; Christmas shopping at the mall, sometimes combined with quality family time; and some spirited holiday celebration with teammates.

"We were able to have our Christmas party and hang out and just relax," said McCarty. "Sort of get rejuvenated."

Iginla said the opportunity to socialize with teammates without talking shop during the season is rare.

"It's a festive time but it's nice as players and a team, being able to get together as a group and really for maybe four, five days not be thinking about hockey," he said.


Videos

Photos