Rejects will give it a rest

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 9:20 AM ET

The Toronto Maple Leafs are in the middle of a stretch with four games in five nights and did not look good getting spanked 6-2 by the Philadelphia Flyers Wednesday night.

The Calgary Flames are currently playing a set of five games in seven nights, and doing it for the second time since Christmas. They looked tired while losing 4-1 to the Minnesota Wild Wednesday.

Fatigue is going to be a major factor for NHL teams between now and the Olympic break.

And it will again be an issue over the final six weeks of the regular season, when play resumes following the 2010 Olympic Winter Games.

There were plenty of players disappointed when they weren't named to their respective Olympic teams. Fans were disappointed for their favourite players, too.

Those feelings will slowly dissipate, but over those two busy stretches, players who were overlooked and their teams will likely be thankful for the breather.

The Flames will benefit greatly if their defence trio of Jay Bouwmeester, Dion Phaneuf and Robyn Regehr are afforded two weeks off. Bouwmeester deserves to be on Canada's team, but being among the top four in the NHL in ice time per game, he could use the rest so he's better down the stretch.

The Flames will rely heavily on him and the other two blueliners in their chase for top spot in the Northwest Division.

They won't be alone benefiting from players not at the Games.

Montreal's playoff hopes are realistic, so having a rested Brian Gionta will help their cause.

Likewise the Colorado Avalanche and goaltender Craig Anderson.

It'll be interesting to see the impact the Olympics has on teams with a plethora of players. Four teams have eight players slated to play in Vancouver. The only one to be a slam dunk playoff team is San Jose, but you can't help but think fatigue will be a factor when the Sharks push for the Stanley Cup.

Detroit, Nashville and Anaheim also have eight players selected to play at the Olympics.

Those teams will be hampered down the stretch.

Chicago has six players slated to go to Vancouver, Los Angeles and Pittsburgh have five just to give an idea about some other teams.

Teams like the Flames, who have three players right now, should be thankful.

Flaming C-notes

As great as Miikka Kiprusoff was Wednesday against the Wild, hindsight says the Flames should have rested their No.-1 goalie and played Curtis McElhinney. The Flames can't afford to paint themselves into a corner when it comes to Kiprusoff. He needs rest, and playing 75 or so games is too much ... GM Darryl Sutter is a believer you need more than eight NHL-calibre defencemen for a lengthy playoff run, but it would be beneficial if the team dealt a blueliner for a scoring winger ... It's hard to believe Olli Jokinen has such a discrepancy on the road and at home since he became a Flame. In 28 regular-season games for Calgary, he's collected three goals and 12 points. In 34 road games, he's collected 14 goals and 32 points ... Defenceman Mark Giordano deserves more credit for his play over the past couple of months.Hockey talky

A few years ago, the Atlanta Thrashers sold the farm to acquire Keith Tkachuk for an ill-fated playoff run. Now it looks like they'll have to deal away Ilya Kovalchuk. That kind of management gets people fired in most cities. That said, Kovalchuk can't have it both ways. If he wants to stay in Atlanta and ensure it's a winning team, he should be looking at a long-term deal for about US$8 million per season, not US$11 million ... Did Oiler fans feel a twinge of pain seeing Rob Schremp's goal the other night against Colorado (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Stqr6WHc4IE)? What a play ... Sure will be a tough task picking the coach of the year. Is it Dave Tippett in Phoenix? Barry Trotz in Nashville? Jacques Lemaire in New Jersey? Lindy Ruff in Buffalo? Joel Quenneville in Chicago? Then again, not sure I'd like to pick somebody for an award knowing he'll be fired in due course.

You don't say

"I would have liked to see that delinquent do that for us last year. I didn't think it was possible, really."

-- Dallas goalie Marty Turco after Sean Avery had one goal and four points for the Rangers in their 5-2 win over the Stars Wednesday

RANDY.SPORTAK@SUNMEDIA.CA


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