SAN JOSE -- Now that the NHL's Olympic break is here, Sharks coach Todd McLellan wants his players to "turn off their minds" for a while. You know, forget about the standings or the rigors of an NHL season.
Mentally checking out may be fine, but physically checking out, too, would be a problem.
"I don't want them to turn their bodies off completely," he added, noting that the training staff gave each player a customized schedule factoring in the need for rest and workouts. And McLellan said he isn't worried about anybody slacking off: "They invest in their own bodies so I'm not concerned."
The Sharks have 20 days between their last game and their next one, but it's not all free time.
Four players, of course, will be on tight schedules starting Sunday when they board their charter flights in Newark, N.J., bringing NHL players to Sochi to begin their pursuit of Olympic gold. Joe Pavelski, Patrick Marleau, Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Antti Niemi have no break at all.
Everybody else? The NHL labor pact allows teams to resume practicing Feb. 19 -- and that's when McLellan and his staff will open a five-day, minicamp to prepare his players for the final 23 games on the schedule and whatever may follow.
"We'll refresh everything," he said. "Then there's other parts of the game where we think we need a little more time -- the power play will be a focus -- and we'll spend more time."
The Sharks resume play Feb. 27 in Philadelphia and are flying there two days before the game to allow more time to overcome jet lag and to save their Olympians an unnecessary cross-country flight. All players should be available for a full practice there the day before the game.
Overall, the Sharks -- and many other NHL teams -- have learned the benefits of what is now the fifth break since NHL players started going to the Olympics in 1998. Health goes up, fatigue goes down. Teams have time to polish up weaker areas. Everyone's ready for a strong stretch drive.
But is there also a downside?
"Right now there's none predicted," McLellan said.
For the Sharks, the upside of the timing of this particular break at is obvious: Injuries to key players are healing and unless something goes wrong, the San Jose team that skates out against the Flyers will have a very different look.
Logan Couture should be in the lineup after missing 16 games with an injured hand. So should Raffi Torres, who hasn't played all season after damaging his knee in an exhibition game. Others such as Tyler Kennedy and Matt Nieto should have had time for lesser injuries to heal -- leaving rookie Tomas Hertl as the only Shark still on injured reserve.
And that comes closer to the team general manager Doug Wilson thought he was constructing for the 2013-14 season than the one that has earned an impressive 80 points in the first 59 games.
And that has an impact on how Wilson will be spending his Olympic break in preparation for the rapidly approaching March 5 trade deadline.
"The good news is we'll be adding four or five players to our roster," Wilson said. "They just happen to be our own key guys."
In the case of Torres, he added, "it's almost like he'll be our deadline acquisition two years in a row, but he's actually going to be healthier than he even was last year."
Wilson, of course, may not stand pat regardless of his upgraded lineup -- especially if there's concern that Hertl will be out the entire season and outside help is needed to fill the void.
Once the games resume, rust will be a natural concern. But is McLellan also concerned about lack of rest for the four who will compete in Sochi?
"We'll manage them," he said. "but that's part of accepting the responsibility of going. You're going there to honor your country and it will be taxing. But you know when you come back, you're going to be relied upon heavily to continue our team's success. You're coming back to contribute."
The Sharks (37-16-6) are on hiatus for the NHL's Olympic break. They return to action at Philadelphia on Feb. 27.