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Kings, Ducks happy for physical, and mental, break

The four days off for the All-Star game give players a chance to gear up for a stretch run.

January 27, 2011|By Kevin Baxter
  • Ducks defenseman Paul Mara says the All-Star break provides a chance for players to rest and prepare themselves for the final 30 games of the season.
Ducks defenseman Paul Mara says the All-Star break provides a chance for… (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles…)

Ducks Coach Randy Carlyle has gone fishing while Terry Murray, his counterpart with the Kings, is hanging around the office.

Kings defenseman Jack Johnson is going home to Michigan while the Ducks' Paul Mara is staying home in Southern California.


FOR THE RECORD:
Kings and Ducks: In the Jan. 28 Sports section, an article about what the Kings and Ducks would be doing during the National Hockey League All-Star break said both teams would resume their schedules Tuesday, Feb. 1. The Ducks' first game out of the break is Feb. 2. —

While there's no end to the ways players and coaches with the Ducks and Kings can spend the four-day NHL All-Star break, which started Thursday, they'll all be trying to do the same thing: rest and rejuvenate.

The Ducks will be sending Corey Perry, Jonas Hiller and Cam Fowler to the weekend celebration in Raleigh, N.C., while the Kings will be represented by Anze Kopitar. But for many of those who are staying behind, hockey will be the furthest thing from their thoughts.

"Turn your mind off for the next four or five days and not think about anything except relaxing," Mara said. "And then when we start up again, gear up for the final 30-game push and gear up for the playoffs. So it's a mental rest as well as a physical break right now."

The NHL didn't play an All-Star game last season although the season was interrupted for two weeks in February to allow players to participate in the Winter Olympics.

That break, the Kings' Justin Williams said, was too long.

"When you come back it's kind of like another training camp," he said. "This one you get back, you take three, four days, you regain your focus."

Mara agreed.

"You don't really lose too much after three or four days," he said. "Every guy that plays is this league, in late January, has bumps or bruises and is definitely enjoying the next three days to rest those bumps."

Yet the mental break may be even more important.

"As much as a physical grind as the NHL season is, it's also a mental grind. And you need these breaks," said Mara, a 12-year veteran. "It's a mental health time to recoup and recover.

"The six inches between my brain is more hurt than any part of my body right now. And that needs the rest."

Especially since the end of the break Monday will mark the beginning of the playoff stretch for both teams, which are riding hot streaks. The Ducks, fifth in the Western Conference, have won 10 of their last 13 games while the Kings, one point out of a postseason berth, have won three straight.

And even though the break could cost the Kings momentum, Murray said the layoff comes at a good time.

"We've had a lot of hockey since the Christmas break. A lot of travel in there. And the guys have been digging down real deep trying to get things turned around," he said. "But I think it's important now that we take advantage of the opportunity to step back for a few days and recover physically, mentally, emotionally and come right back at it."

That didn't happen last year, when the Kings stumbled through five losses in their first eight games after the Olympic break.

"We came out flat," Murray said. "We have to give this one a good focus to come out the same way as we're playing right now. The time off will be good."

For at least one player, however, the break can't end soon enough. Ducks center Ryan Getzlaf, a two-time All-Star, has been cleared to skate when the team returns to the ice Monday. Getzlaf has been out since Dec. 28 after sustaining sinus fractures when a puck hit him in the face.

The Kings will also practice Monday with both teams resuming their schedules Tuesday.

"The games are harder. It's tougher," Williams said "You break it up into three categories. The start of the season, gearing up for playoffs and then playoffs.

"This gets us into our second stage and the playoff push."

kevin.baxter@latimes.com

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