Time off takes toll on players

DAN TOTH -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 4:57 PM ET

 Legions of heavyweight contenders have woken up on a canvas mattress, the groggy victims of ring rust.

 Boxers have learned the painful lesson: Too many days between bouts can cost you.

  The same is true in hockey.

 "I felt terrible out there," said Chris Clark after yesterday's light Flames practice. "Take a day off and you feel like you've never skated before."

 While yesterday's drills didn't exactly look like atom hockey tryouts, Sweet Georgia Brown wasn't being pumped through the sound system, either. Passes seemed to hit as many skate blades as stick blades.

 Fifteen-year NHLer Martin Gelinas, a veteran of numerous Cup battles, recognized the shoddy playmaking in yesterday's Saddledome session but is confident two more days of preparation will refine their skills for the final.

 "It was a little off but it will get better (today) and even better on Monday and on Tuesday we'll be ready to go," said Gelinas, whose Flames dispatched San Jose in six games, earning a rest while the Eastern Conference champion wasn't determined until last night.

 "It's hard," continued Gelinas, who has posted 13 points in 19 playoff games. "You have to push yourself on the ice and if that's not enough, there's a weight room and so on for you to get ready. But everybody's different, yet you have to push yourself."

 The stagnating effects of too many days off was evident in Round 3 against the Sharks. Five days of anticipation before the puck dropped in San Jose might have caused the 52-shot barrage Flames goalie Miikka Kiprusoff endured, despite winning the contest 4-3 in overtime.

 So how do the Flames, shadow boxing since Thursday awaiting a Stanley Cup opponent, stickhandle around the rust?

 "Spray some WD-40 in the joints?" chuckled rugged winger Chris Simon, apparently not preoccupied with falling out of form.

 "I think at this time of year, it's only going help. Guys are playing on high emotion, a lot of intensity, so fatigue doesn't come into play, especially when we've had these last two rounds with a couple of days off (between series) which has been huge for us.

 "We've come into the rink and worked out. The other day, we had a day off and some of the guys came in for treatments and worked out. Everybody is very focused on what we have to do, so we're just staying relaxed. Everybody works hard here, everybody's in great shape so now it's a great thing to have a few days."

 Said Shean Donovan:"I'm a hockey fan, so I'll be watching (last night's Eastern Conference Game 7) but (this morning) the coaches will be breaking down film of our opponent for the final. Every practise will get harder so we can get a flying start into the first game."


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