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03-11-2009, 03:10 PM
Seth Lake
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Practice Report from 3/11/09 - Post-Washington/Pre-Rangers

No Arnott or Legwand on the ice at practice today. Arnott is resting whatever was injured last night and Legwand I'm sure got the day off after playing huge minutes yesterday vs. OV. VK was playing at forward to fill the lines out.

Dumont - Sullivan - Pihlstrom
Ward - Fiddler - Erat
Koistinen - Smithson - Tootoo
Jones - Nichol - Belak

No changes in the D pairings, everyone present.

MacIntyre has been sent back to Milwaukee and wasn't at practice today. Pekka was in net with Ellis opposite him. Rinne looked fatigued at the end of drills that involved a lot of movement. Still obviously not 100%, but did look better than Tuesday.

I did not mention it after Tuesday's practice, but the team was pretty tight and very sloppy throughout the session. It was a disturbing change in behavior from the loose, fun-loving bunch I saw last week during the winning streak. I have a feeling that their were more guys battling illness than listed in the injury report. Today was much sharper, had better flow, and a lot more fun-natured banter throughout. An encouraging sign from the team IMO.

Quick 45 minute practice today starting at 11:00 AM with only about 30 minutes total of team drills before Trotz demonstrated a tendency of either the Rangers or the Predators (couldn't tell which) on open ice regroups regarding the pressure from the forecheck. The players then scattered with some leaving the ice, a few taking faceoffs at center ice, and others at both ends getting in individual work. Lots of focus on transition (breakouts, regroups, OZ entry, etc) and cycling today during team work. Forwards got extra cycle element work with Horachek during the position split in the final segment of practice, then even more cycle work after practice for those that stayed (Nichol, Koistinen, Jones, Tootoo, Belak).

Dumont obviously didn't get the message about the time change for this morning and was about 15 minutes late onto the ice drawing a lot of mock cheers and jeers during the middle of a drill.

Ryan Jones simply doesn't have NHL ready skills to play a scoring line role yet. His passing lacks accuracy and is very inconsistent. He is great around the net and in the corners, but the lack of refined passing skill negates so much of what he does in those areas because he cannot move the puck effectively to his teammates to create opportunities consistently. He also must work on shooting accuracy to reach his potential. Far too often Jones shoots either off the toe or heel of his stick blade and doesn't get good strength or accuracy out of the shot.

Last week I saw Belak essentially call off a tip drill where Beeler had initially feed Jones low shots to re-direct from the slot. When it was Wade's turn Jones sent the first three shots nowhere near Belak, then shot two of the next three at head height. Wade got one deflectable shot in the sequence before calling the drill off for personal safety reasons. Today, Nichol and Pihlstrom worked a quick drill where each had 10 shots from the high-slot (shooter initiates drill by passing across, then shoots off return pass, players switch roles every shot and repeat). During the drill only once was the shooter not able to shoot directly off the pass. Then Jones came in and took a few passes to connect accurately with Nichol and admittedly began struggling with the pattern of pass, return pass, shoot, reverse, repeat as he was consciously working on passing accuracy. Jones overused his slap shot in the drill and got less accurate with his snap and slap shots as the drill progressed, culminating with him tossing his stick into the corner in disgust after the drill (he did not throw it, he half-heartedly tossed it in the air, landing in the corner). I really think Jones has a bright future ahead in the NHL as a scoring line winger, but he is a rookie with a lot of raw talent that needs to be polished before he can consistently compete at this level.

VK really does look good in practice as a forward. His quick release catches goalies unprepared and is his wrist shot is very accurate. He has good playmaking skills and hustles skating forward with open ice in front of him. Looks very comfortable with the puck on his stick both in open ice and in traffic as well. Biggest problems as a defenseman have been his inability to handle weight and trying too hard to make plays with the puck. As a forward those issues are minimized and his skill set actually plays better playing up. Interesting to see his versatility progress throughout the season.

Belak did not have so much as a red mark on his face after his two fights last night. Couldn't get as good a look at Jordin, but nothing stood out for him either. Those guys did a great job last night in their fights.

Jordin showed no issue whatsoever with his hand from the fight last night. He was blasting shots and never passed up an opportunity to hammer the puck.

I really think the reason Tootoo went to the locker room after the fight was to get a new jersey (his was covered in Bradley's blood and you aren't allowed to play like that) and to get his finger re-taped because he had to take off the bandage before fighting to avoid a misconduct.

No concern from my standpoint about Jordin's hand, although I really don't believe we will see him fight that often the remainder of the season. There was no way that Bradley was going to be able to get away with a cheapshot like he gave Tootoo on the prior shift, finger or not he was going to answer for that.

Hamhuis fell awkardly during a shooting drill after losing an edge and quickly had Weber and then Suter leaning down "cleaning" off his skate blades with big grins. Dan immediately skated over to the bench and saw the equipment manager for a quick repair.

Tootoo also caught an edge after practice during a cycle drill with Horachek involving a tight turn to the front of the net after bumping the puck back to the corner to a teammate and getting the return feed for a shot in front. Jordin fell as he turned to the front of the net and wound up sliding sideways into the goal frame knocking it off its moorings. Horachek asked if he was OK, Jordin quickly gave an affirmative response, but took a second before getting up and resetting the net. He did one more rep of the drill and then left the ice.

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