Hockey fans will go back to reality next week.
After a brilliant showcase of hockey’s speed and skill at the Olympic Winter Games, the NHL season resumes Monday as teams begin their playoff push.
Here’s a look at two teams that benefited from the two-week Olympic layoff and two squads that would rather have kept on playing.
Helped by the break
The Habs should be a much different-looking team after the Olympic break.
Decimated by injuries, Montreal was forced to rely heavily on American Hockey League call-ups for several weeks. But the team has gotten a lot healthier during the two-week layoff.
Benoit Pouliot, Andrei Kostitsyn and Paul Mara are expected back in the Montreal lineup Tuesday against Boston. The Canadiens remain without top goal scorer Mike Cammalleri and power-play specialist Marc-Andre Bergeron, but hope to get both back soon.
Montreal, a disappointing 29-28-6 so far, will need all hands on deck for a run at the postseason.
"Right now, we're in a playoff position," Habs coach Jacques Martin told reporters, "but we need to sprint to the finish over those final 19 games."
Challenging the league record for consecutive victories took its toll on the league-leading Capitals.
Washington was both mentally and physically spent after going on a 14-game winning streak, falling three games short of Pittsburgh's NHL record. After the Capitals' streak was snapped with an overtime loss in Montreal, Washington lost its next two games before the Olympic break.
"This is going to be good for us," defenseman Mike Green said of the break. "I have some bumps and bruises that need some rest."
Hurt by the break
Los Angeles was playing its best hockey of the season leading up to the Olympic break, going 12-2-1 in its last 15 games. The Kings' hot streak helped them shoot all the way up to fourth in the Western Conference standings.
"The Olympic break is a tough thing, especially when you are not playing," said Kings captain Dustin Brown, who did suit up for the Americans in Vancouver. "I think it is probably easier for the guys who are going to the Olympics. If anything, the intensity might pick up for those guys. But for the guys who are not going, it is important for them to focus. It can take a toll on you having that much time off."
A visit to Dallas Tuesday might help the Kings pick up where they left off. Los Angeles has won four of its last five in Dallas and five of its last six against the Stars.
After an abysmal start to the season, there's playoff talk in Raleigh once again.
The Hurricanes have played themselves back into the postseason picture, winning nine of their last 11 games before the Olympics slowed them down.
The challenge now for Canes coach Paul Maurice is to get his team to pick things up where they left off.
"(Our focus) is to look at the break as a real good thing for their bodies and mentally, and we'll come back and try to get as quick and as fast as we can," Maurice told the media.
The Hurricanes remain without first-string goalie Cam Ward (back) and are using veteran Manny Legace and rookie Justin Peters in net. Carolina traded defenceman Nic Wallin and forward Matt Cullen before the break and might deal forward Ray Whitney if it falls out of the playoff hunt again.