Heads 'n' details

TODD SAELHOF -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 2:43 PM ET


 It's spring.

 You know, that time of the year when a hockey player's fancy turns to winning a Stanley Cup.

 Same goes for the coaches.

 Like the players they guide, the coaches harbour the same aspirations and are willing to commit fully to the task at hand. They may not necessarily add to their portfolio of responsibilities during the playoffs but there is a difference in the duties they perform.

 "I know at least the bench situation won't change in terms of management with Darryl (Sutter) and Rich (Preston) and Jim (Playfair)," said Calgary Flames assistant coach Rob Cookson when asked if the coaches' roles change in the NHL playoffs.

 "But there may be more opportunity to do more specific things, especially when we're playing the same team up to seven times."

 Take, for instance, the Flames in the first round of these playoffs. The coaches will be able to delve a little deeper into the Vancouver Canucks' traits and pass that information along to the players.

 What are Markus Naslund's tendencies?

 Where does Geoff Sanderson situate himself on the powerplay?

 And where is goaltender Dan Cloutier weakest on the long shot?

 "We'll have to provide more feedback but, again, we're not switching from one team to another as we go along, so definitely that makes it easier," said Cookson, the Flames' video specialist.

 "You come in the morning, you find what you're looking for on the tape and you show it to the players. The players see it and you're on to the next game."

 Over the course of the 82-game regular season, Cookson and Co. are often preparing for three or four different teams in the span of seven days.

 It's rare the Flames play a rival back-to-back or even within a week.

 On game days, for example, goaltending coach David Marcoux likes to review video evaluation of opposition players with goaltenders Roman Turek and Miikka Kiprusoff, so they can get a better handle on would-be snipers or playmakers for game time.

 "Actually, preparation-wise, it's a little easier once it gets rolling," Cookson said.

 "It's much easier because you're not jumping to the next team."

 But that doesn't mean it's much easier on the ice, where the coaches also have a part to play. For them, it's about preparing the players for the playoff grind, which is much different than the regular-season marathon.

 "You always have to look at the shift you're playing in the playoffs," said Flames assistant coach Jim Playfair.

 "And that's a major focus for the coaching staff -- break the playoffs down to the shift you're playing in. You just keep chipping away and cutting away the extracurricular details that don't matter.

 "It doesn't matter what people write in the paper. It doesn't matter what anybody else does. It doesn't matter how many family members come to town. It doesn't matter if you're bruised or bumped or if you're hurting.

 "All that matters is that the shift you're playing next is the most important shift of the night.

 "And I think when you get that mind-set, you focus on the process, not the outcome."


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