SAN JOSE -- All 30 NHL teams get a little something extra this Christmas: a holiday break that has grown from two to three days off so players can spend more time with family and friends.

The extended break was mandated by the collective bargaining agreement that ended the league's lockout 11 months ago.

The downside? Ten games are on the schedule Friday, and that means 10 teams -- including the Sharks -- must take an early morning flight, get in a quick morning skate and play the same night.

That is not the normal routine, of course. Players and coaches generally say one day away from the rink is good during the season, but not more than that for conditioning reasons. And day-of-game flights might be acceptable during the exhibition season but not usually when the outcome matters.

Coach Todd McLellan is taking a stoic approach even with players having to get on the team plane at 6:30 a.m. for the two-hour flight to Phoenix to face the Coyotes.

"There's nothing we can do about it," he said, noting that every team deals with the same 72-hour period without skating or organized workouts.

If McLellan wanted to take issue with the schedule, he could point out that the Vancouver Canucks can have two full practices before they return to play Sunday.

Or that the Sharks are one of only two teams that leave their time zone for a same-day game, losing an hour and compressing things even more. The Colorado Avalanche is in the same fix as it flies to Chicago.


Advertisement

Unlike the NBA, which showcases games on Christmas Day, the NHL has not played on Dec. 25 since 1971. The last game on Christmas Eve was the following year.

Joe Pavelski, the Sharks' representative to the NHL Players Association, said he didn't know if the third day was a big issue during the bargaining impasse that shut down the league for 119 days last season.

"Some guys wanted it, some guys didn't care," Pavelski said. "But guys are happy they got it."

McLellan indicated he expects players to know what is best for themselves -- complete rest or some exercise at home.

"You hope the players jump on the bike or go for a walk, but they're also at a point where there's fatigue in their game," the coach said, adding that players do have fitness equipment at home. "We'll be fine."

Patrick Marleau said the Friday night game comes down to preparation and which team will be ready to play right away.

"It'd be nice to have a practice. Going to have to get the legs going right away," said Marleau, who added that he planned to get in some exercise beyond the workout he gets chasing his kids around the house.

Holiday time at home is important, said Marc-Edouard Vlasic, who welcomed the extra day off.

"Two days was nice to have, but it's a little short. Christmas goes by too fast," the defenseman said. "The 25th is done and you were playing on the 26th."

So does he plan to work out during the break?

"Well, we're on the record, so I should say, 'Yes,' " Vlasic said. "The answer is I don't know. Maybe the 26th. Definitely for sure, the 24th and 25th is absolutely nothing. Holidays only come around once a year, so you've got to enjoy them."

Scott Hannan did not sound too concerned that time away from the rink could contribute to injuries in the first game back.

"Guys are professional; they're going to take care of themselves," he said. "It's just three days. It's just a rest for the body that I think will pay off in the long run."

That said, he does plan to get on the exercise bike at home.

"Get to a certain age, the body will start to tighten up," said Hannan, 34, before catching himself. "Sounding like I'm really old."

For more on the Sharks, see David Pollak's Working the Corners blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/sharks. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/PollakOnSharks.