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Like Babcock, Blashill No Fan At All Of NHL Bye Week

By: Will Burchfield

The NHL instituted bye weeks last season in exchange for the players agreeing to a three-on-three format at the All-Star Game.

The most obvious effect was unforeseen: Teams coming off a bye were rusty, slow and altogether uncompetitive.

Of the 26 games between a team fresh off a bye and a team within the regular flow of its schedule, the "rested" team won eight. That didn't sit well with a number of general managers and coaches, so the NHL compressed this year's byes within a two-week window to reduce the number of uneven matchups.

But some coaches still aren't a fan of the break in the schedule.

"Nope," said Jeff Blashill on Thursday, before the reporter could finish asking his question. "I think the players like it. I've got nothing to do with. I coach the schedule I'm given."

Most gripes surrounding the bye week stem from the fact that it increases the number of back-to-backs and three-games-in-four-nights stretches throughout the schedule. Some coaches, such as Toronto's Mike Babcock, believe that increases injury risk. It certainly leads to tired players and watered-down lineups.

Blashill feels there are "other avenues" toward getting teams more rest.

"Maybe extend the All-Star break on both sides of it. Half the teams on one side, half the teams on the other," he said. "I'm not a big fan of the bye week, but I'm also not a player. That was negotiated in as part of the agreement to go to three-on-three, so I don't really think a whole bunch about it."

The Red Wings had their bye last week. They were spanked by the Penguins in their first game back, but Pittsburgh was coming off its bye as well. That was the first of three games in four nights for Detroit, who's now now in the midst of another three-day layoff before returning to action on Saturday against Carolina.

The Hurricanes will be coming off their bye, which would seem to work in the Wings' favor.

"It depends," Blashill said. "I'll you the biggest thing: I'm worried about the Red Wings. I'm not really worried about Carolina. They're usually a hard-working team, so I expect them to come out and play hard. Last year we were in that boat and we won our game off the bye week."

Saturday's game will kick off another hectic stretch of hockey for the Wings: four games in six nights, culminating in a grudge match with the Blackhawks next Thursday. Then the players will get five more days off for the All-Star break.

Blashill admitted it can be tough to keep guys mentally engaged when the games come on such an irregular basis.

"You definitely get out of your rhythm a little bit. Now, the one thing we have to remember and the one thing I'll remind them tomorrow, is we have four games here until another break. So we have to really, really buckle down and focus in on those four games," said Blashill.

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