CALGARY — Despite playing a game every second day for the rest of the regular season, the Calgary Flames aren’t shutting down their off-ice training.
It’s crucial, in fact, to keep up weightlifting, core and mobility work and spins on the bike despite a hectic game schedule, says Calgary’s strength and conditioning coach.
“We do a lot of the same things to be honest,” Ryan van Asten said Tuesday following an optional practice at Scotiabank Saddledome. “We just modify the volume and intensity levels.
“We still have to train to maintain. That’s what’s going to allow us to be ready to play down the stretch.”
When the Flames conclude their regular season April 8, they’ll have played 16 games in 31 days.
At 39-26-4 and currently on a 10-game winning streak, a playoff run of some duration is looking more and more likely for Calgary. They’re at home to the Boston Bruins (37-26-6) on Wednesday.
Keeping the engines revving and bodies healthy on their current game clip takes work.
After Monday night’s shootout win over the Pittsburgh Penguins, van Asten says you would have seen some Flames in the weight room, some on bikes and others in cold tubs and on training tables.
NHL players can lose muscle mass they build up over the summer during the course of the season. Late in the season, a player can become what’s known as “skinny fat”.
“Typically body weight stays about the same, but their fat and muscle composition changes a little bit and that’s what we try to avoid,” van Asten said.
Technology helps van Asten determine the right amount of dryland work for each player.
“There’s a system RVA has that you hook up to,” captain Mark Giordano explained. “It’s a heart-rate monitor and you put a couple of those patches on your hands and one on your forehead. It looks funny, but it monitors which systems are down and which ones are fine.”
Added van Asten: “It’s basically like heart-rate variability testing and it can give us a good indication of their ability to withstand a training load or stress.”
Before joining the Flames in 2014, van Asten was strength and conditioning coach for the Los Angeles Kings through a pair of Stanley Cup wins, so he’s shepherded players through a season of 100-plus games before.
“The primary focus right now at this point in time is making sure they are recovered for the next game, which has to do with a lot of things: nutrition, sleep and general mobility, hip health and shoulder health,” van Asten said.
“Outside of that, the secondary focus would be maintaining strength.”
While nine skaters and a goalie participated in Tuesday’s optional practice, winger Troy Brouwer rode the bike and played “sewer ball,” which is a game with a soccer ball that warms up hips and is a popular pre-game warmup for NHL teams.
“A lot of it has to do with how you’re feeling and that’s what Ryan is really good at,” Brouwer said.
“You come in and talk to him and say ‘I’m not feeling it today’ and he’s OK with that. He’s not going to force workouts on you just because he’s a strength guy.
“He knows the players, knows how they’re playing, watches guys’ minutes. He does a lot more than just put workout plans together.”