Short NHL season offers physical test for Pens
Mike Kadar, the Penguins' strength and conditioning coach, is not worried about training camp practices that begin Monday at Consol Energy Center.
Five days of scrimmage-heavy sessions should not prove too taxing for even the poorest-conditioned Penguins among the 24 to 26 who will attend, Kadar said.
“But from what I'm hearing, we'll be playing a lot of three games in four nights,” he said. “I always think about what's that 1 or 2 percent difference between us and somebody else, and in the short season it is going to be about maintaining that.”
The NHL season will begin Jan. 19 if the Players' Association wraps its ratification vote of the labor contract Saturday. The last day of the regular season is April 27.
The Penguins' opener, at Philadelphia on Jan. 19, will be the first of 48 games in 99 days. The Penguins didn't play their final 48 games over fewer than 107 days in the past five seasons.
Kadar said his focus will be on “regeneration, rejuvenation and nutrition” to keep players from falling apart under the rigors of a condensed schedule.
“Hydration, in my mind, is the biggest concern — it doesn't take a lot to get behind the eight ball — and eating as organic as we can, which can get tough when you're on the road and eating out of other buildings,” Kadar said.
Kadar oversees pre- and post-practice and game meals for players, including for charter flights to road games. He relies on local Whole Foods and Giant Eagle Market District for produce, meats and fish. He will advise players to load up on super foods such as greens and avoid gluten, a protein found in wheat, “because it sticks to your intestines, and you can't absorb the nutrients from your food.”
Defenseman Brooks Orpik, a famous workout warrior, said he will not cut gluten from his diet completely. However, he conceded that players must strictly adhere to their diets.
“I'll try to eat six small meals a day,” he said, noting he will limit his carbohydrate intake after 4 p.m.
“The thing that changes for me most is I'll do nothing heavy during the year. I'll do some plyometrics and core work with bands.”
Kadar said he does not want players avoiding the gym but will insist they cut back on the intensity of workouts.
After games, players often engage in “flushes,” quick exercises, often on stationary bikes, designed to extract lactic acid from the body. Kadar said that will become a daily routine.
So will days off, coach Dan Bylsma said — especially for players such as Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Orpik, or anybody who routinely averages 20 or more minutes per game.
Bylsma said his famous extended morning skates — usually about 40 minutes, often including up-tempo skating — are likely to get sacked often, as was the case in the final months of 2010 after players returned from the Vancouver Olympic Games.
“You have to do as much as you can do off the ice to limit injuries,” Kadar said, “but it's really going to be about communicating with these guys and making sure you know how they're really feeling.
“It's been (since 1995) that there was a short season. This is new for all of us. We just have to be careful. We can talk about 48 games in however many days, but we want them ready to hopefully play two months after that, right?”
Note: Two athletic trainers are joining the Penguins' staff as assistants. Curtis Bell previously worked with Tampa Bay, New Jersey and Florida. Patrick Steidle spent the past 14 seasons with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the AHL. They will serve under head trainer Chris Stewart. Trainers are not permitted to speak with the media, per club policy.