Lindy Ruff weighed the urgency for Canada to catch up on its world championship preparation with the need for a breather.
Canada’s head coach chose the latter and kept the team off the ice Monday.
The 22 Canadians had just three skates as a team before the 2013 IIHF World Championship because of NHL’s lockout-shortened regular season ended three weeks later than usual.
There were systems that needed tightening up after a 3-1 win over Denmark and a 3-2 shootout loss to Switzerland in back-to-back games to start the tournament. Ruff felt a break from the ice was more beneficial.
“The tendency is to want to get out there (on the ice) and you want to balance that,” Ruff explained at the team’s downtown Stockholm hotel.
“We’ve gone through all the travel, we practised the first night we got in. We’ve had quite a few players play some good minutes for us. I think the right decision is to give them a day.”
Switzerland defeated the Czech Republic 5-2 on Monday and Slovakia came back to defeat Germany 3-2. Finland defeated France 3-1 and Sweden edged Belarus 2-1.
Canada (1-0-1) plays four games in six days starting Tuesday against Norway (2-0). Host Sweden on Thursday and the Czech Republic on Sunday are the key games in that stretch.
The players boarded the bus Monday for an afternoon of go-karting.
Ruff was an assistant coach to Mike Babcock on the 2010 Olympic team that won gold. That Canadian team didn’t practise much during the Winter Games either, the coach pointed out.
“You go back to your Olympic experience where players are coming off playing (in the NHL) and we didn’t practice a lot,” Ruff said.
“We’ve been on the ice five straight days and back-to-back games. You’ve got to give the players some time to rest and some time to recover. If you look at this tournament, it’s real busy. There’s maybe two days in the whole tournament you can let them rest.”
Philadelphia Flyers defenceman Luke Schenn logged over 22 minutes of ice time against the Swiss. The 24-year-old from Saskatoon is wearing the Maple Leaf in the world championship for the fourth time in the last five years.
With three defencemen making their international debuts for Canada, Schenn will continue to play big minutes. He’s of two minds on the question of practising versus a day away from the ice getting to know some unfamiliar teammates.
“Obviously it would be nice to try and build on some things or work on some things in practice and try and get that chemistry going a little bit more, but sometimes rest is just an important as going out there and practising,” Schenn said.
“You get to know the other guys differently and bond a little bit more away from the rink. Maybe that can lead to better things on the ice.”
Devan Dubynk of the Edmonton Oilers goes back into Canada’s net against Norway. Ruff is rotating the Calgarian and Mike Smith of the Phoenix Coyotes early in this tournament. Dubnyk made 24 saves in his first start against Denmark.
Norwegian defenceman Ole-Kristian Tollefson, a former Columbus Blue Jacket, and forward Marius Holtet will be out of the lineup Tuesday serving one-game suspensions.
Tollefson checked Denmark and Phoenix Coyotes forward Mikkel Boedker from behind Sunday. Boedker wasn’t badly injured, but his teammate Daniel Nielson dislocated his shoulder when Holtet shoved him into the boards. The Danes say Nielson is out for the tournament.
The strength of the Canadian team is international experience and skill at forward. Instead of deferentially passing to each other, Ruff wants them to get the puck on net more, particularly on the power play that is 1-for-8. Canada mustered 19 shots on Switzerland in regulation.
This Canadian team has been together for less than a week. Some of the players don’t know each other well. Not wanting to appear selfish with the puck to new teammates may be a reason for wanting to pass first instead of shoot, says Carolina Hurricanes forward Eric Staal.
“It’s early on and you almost instinct-wise, try to help someone else out instead of just throw it at the net,” the Canadian captain said.
“I think we’ve got to do a better job of driving the pace, driving pucks at the net and just playing instead of thinking to make plays. Once we do that, things will open up and happen. We’ve got to shoot the puck more for sure.”
Canada’s coaches were to conduct a video session Monday evening to get the game plan for Norway in the players’ heads. Assistant captain Stephane Robidas of the Dallas Stars believes going into those meetings with a fresh head can be just as beneficial as a skate.
“Sometimes you can practise as much as you want, but if you’re head is not there, it’s hard to get (information) in,” he said. “Sometimes it’s good just to get away. Tonight, you get a good video session.
“We’ve had trouble with turnovers and stuff like that. You can practise for hours, but it’s just a matter of having it in your mind that ‘Hey, we’ve got to manage the puck better. We’ve got to make the easier play.’
“There’s a lot of room out there and sometimes teams are sitting back and just waiting for us. They force you to make mistakes and that’s what they want to create, those turnovers. You have to be smarter with the puck and make better decisions with it.”