His portable lab, which goes everywhere Panthers players do, is a trunk about three feet high and two feet wide -- with wheels.
That helps because it's heavy.
Andy O'Brien, the team's strength and conditioning coach, keeps everything inside the trunk he needs to make his super shakes -- different types of proteins, carbohydrates, amino acids, vitamins and herbal supplements in abundant supply.
When he's done mixing, usually with water and/or Gatorade -- the latter adds electrolytes and improves the taste -- players have funky-colored concoctions to drink, usually after games and practices.
For some Panthers, such as wingers David Booth, Radek Dvorak, Ville Peltonen and defenseman Karlis Skrastins, the shakes are customized to suit their needs.
The ingredients and amounts are determined by a heaping teaspoon of hair from the back of their head that has been sent to Trace Elements, a lab in Addison, Texas, to be burned and analyzed. Nutrients inside a strand of hair are indicative of what's inside muscle tissue.
Hair analysis reveals the level of 15 nutritional elements -- notably calcium, magnesium, sodium and potassium -- eight toxic elements and additional elements in the player's body.
All of this science is used to combat muscle fatigue and prevent injuries on the ice and to accelerate recovery, especially important at this point of the season, with just five regular-season games left starting tonight against the Thrashers.
"At the end of the season, you need energy, your body kind of goes into overtime," Dvorak said. "This kind of thing helps you to realize that."
Dvorak's shakes have been supplemented with extra magnesium, and since the veteran has found his muscles feel better on the ice, he recovers faster after games and sleeps better at night.
Skrastins' hair sample showed 300 times the normal level of uranium, O'Brien said. His brother's sample -- anyone can send theirs in -- showed the same.
"It's not enough for him to notice symptoms," O'Brien said, "but it's enough for it to affect his athletic performance at a really, really high level."
O'Brien said the high level of uranium is probably attributed to Skrastins growing up in Latvia, some 300 miles from the 1986 nuclear explosion at Chernobyl, in what is now Ukraine. Heavy doses of zinc and iron for six months lowered Skrastins' uranium level considerably.
"It gives you some answers about what your body needs," Skrastins said.
Added Booth: "That's something I thought I didn't need. I was, like, 'I take a multivitamin. I should be all set.' But [the results] came back and I was shocked I was actually deficient in a lot of things."
The customized shakes don't have much impact on an athlete at a recreational level, O'Brien said, but it makes a difference at the NHL level.
Former Panthers forward Gary Roberts, who retired this season at 42 years old, said he played as long as he did because of his emphasis on nutrition. Roberts was sending in his hair samples to the Texas lab before he joined the Panthers four seasons ago.
"Between 20 and 30 you can get away with not eating and training exactly right," he said. "But after you get over 30, if you're not going extra off the ice, you're not going to have a chance at longevity in the National Hockey League."
Steve Gorten can be reached at sgorten@SunSentinel.comCopyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun