Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

N.H.L. Teams Frantically Preparing for Shortened Season

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

N.H.L. Teams Frantically Preparing for Shortened Season

Article excerpt

With the lockout behind them and players reporting in various states of readiness, there is little time in the downsized training camp for planning as the frantic sprint to the N.H.L. playoffs is set to begin Saturday.

With players reporting in various states of readiness and little time in the downsized training camp for planning, the frantic sprint to the National Hockey League playoffs is set to begin Saturday after the four-month N.H.L. lockout.

Only once before in the post-World War II era has the league played a 48-game schedule, in 1995, and Scotty Bowman, the Hall of Fame coach who led the Detroit Red Wings to a league-best 33-11-4 record that year, remembers some lessons he took from it. St. Louis's Ken Hitchcock, the N.H.L. coach of the year last season, has researched ways to get past a short season's limitations. And Ron Francis, another Hall of Famer who was a top player that in 1995, understands the compact schedule's pitfalls, too.

Because injuries could become a factor, Bowman stressed the importance of organizational depth in approaching the condensed season.

"The teams that have guys playing on their farm teams who can come up and play on the fourth line at the N.H.L. level will have an advantage," Bowman said. His club was spared injury problems in '95, and he says he expects teams to use four offensive lines as often as possible rather than three, to keep the forwards fresh.

In 1995, Bowman made sure his Red Wings took quicker shifts by drilling them on one of the game's subtleties, changing on the fly.

"Lots of teams change at the wrong time," he said. "Especially early in a short season, you want your team well-disciplined on how to change, where to put the puck and not taking long shifts."

Bowman, now an adviser with the Chicago Blackhawks, said his team worked on line changes during intrasquad scrimmages.

"People laughed at it, but I had a football horn and a stopwatch," he said. "I didn't want them to change when I blew the horn, but if I'd blow the horn once, I'm telling the white team they should be thinking about getting a change. I figured after they had a good 30 to 40 seconds, they've got to know that the next opportunity you have to put the puck in the right place, so we can get at least two or three guys off."

The lockout officially ended Saturday night, after players ratified the new labor deal by a 667-12 vote and lawyers smoothed out a few last-minute issues.

Hitchcock told the Canadian sports broadcaster TSN last week that he had spoken with National Basketball Association coaches who went through that league's lockout-shortened 2011-12 season. …

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