Surprised Glennon hasn't written an afternoon update on his blog. He, Boclair, and Yutzy were at practice today along with one other local news station camera.
Erat did not skate. Sulzer was skating without any restrictions (ie: no red jersey).
Lines the same as Saturday night:
Dumont - Arnott - Sullivan
Ward - Legwand - Smithson
Pihlstrom - Fiddler - Tootoo
Jones - O'Reilly - Koistinen/Belak
Weber - Suter
Hamhuis - Zanon
DeVries/Sulzer - Klein
Team had a great vibe about them throughout practice. They were working hard, but having a ton of fun as well. Players were challenging each other in all sorts of different ways all over the ice (ie: PP vs PK, centers on faceoffs, F's vs. D's, etc). It really reminded me more of the San Jose off-day practice I watched last season. Smiles and laughter all around.
Team started with a drill incorporating multiple breakout and regroup options in the DZ through the NZ before culminating in a shot coming off transition and followed up by two shots generated off the cycle. Stretched at center ice, then went into a simple formation for a couple shooting drills before working on 2 on 1 and then 2 on 2 rushes out of the same formation with the goalie making a breakout pass. The team switched from Rink 1 to Rink 2 and started back with a continous one-puck 2 on 2 drill and then finally wound up with continous 3 on 2 one-puck rushes.
At this point the team broke into special teams work with the following PP units:
PP1: Suter - Arnott at the point, Dumont - Tootoo - Sullivan down low. Sully was more of a rover all over the ice honestly.
PP2: Weber - Koistinen on the points, Ward - Legwand - O'Reilly down low. Cal was in Erat's spot and served in a similar capacity as Sully.
PP1 scored two goals and PP2 I believe had three, but both appeared to be moving the puck and people around pretty well, looking more to move the puck around to the open man and reading where the seams in the defense were rather than running set plays. Fiddler made a great read to deny a backdoor play during the last shift that Pihlstrom had been late to react to just minutes prior.
Team broke up into stations for individual work (defense at one end with Peterson, forwards at the other with Horachek, faceoff work with Trotz at center) and as the players started leaving the ice Korn worked with Ellis on a couple of goalie drills at the end with the remaining forwards. Peterson put Sulzer and Klein through extra work with Belak and O'Reilly helping out while Jones and Fiddler worked with Korn at the other. Ward did his standard puck-handling drills after practice off to the side of the rink. O'Reilly did something similiar later on by himself. After Klein went off the ice Sulzer continued to go through conditioning work with Peterson at one end while Belak and Jones worked at the other end on deflecting pucks.
Sulzer looked like he struggled with stamina towards the end, but is very close to returning to limited minutes (ie: 3rd pairing minutes). Shots were very inconsistent in strength and accuracy, but he made good passes, and didn't shy away from contact during drills. Don't think they are shooting for getting him back into the lineup tomorrow, but are trying to get him ready for post-deadline action (ie: DeVries is on his way out...).
Koistinen looked good at forward and was actually the first player (Dumont) to steal the puck on the forecheck from the goalies during the 2 on 1 breakout drill. He skated very well with and without the puck and worked well with the line. Not saying I'm gonna keep him around, but I actually like that Jones - O'Reilly - Koistinen fourth line on nights were we do not need to dress an enforcer.
One thing to keep an eye on...Klein crashed into the boards feet first after loosing an edge wheeling around the back of the net during the extra work with Peterson. Everyone stopped and cringed because it appeared that he might have twisted his ankle in the fall. Klein got up with a bit of a grimace and did finish the drill, but left the ice after that. Will be interesting to how his ankle responds later today and tomorrow after he takes off his skate.
The whole team appears to have stopped shaving. My guess is that they're growing "playoff push" beards...
Main goals of today's practice was really work on transition, generating offense off the rush, generating offense off the cycle, and getting pucks and people to the net.
Trotz, Peterson, Horachek, Bouchard, and Korn were all on the ice leading different periods of the practice session and all providing instruction and most importantly a lot of fun natured banter and positive support.
Cal O'Reilly lead team stretching in the center circle at the end of practice. A sign that he has been accepted by his peers. Personally, I wouldn't mind him centering the fourth line for the rest of the season...
This team is focused, they are on the same page, and they are bringing it.
I will continue to protest a 4 forward powerplay if we are putting guys like Tootoo, Ward, Bonk, etc. as the fourth man. Weber should be on the first powerplay unit. I am willing to bet 29 other head coaches would have him on the top unit....
On the other hand, if Bonk is on or is placed on IR, then we will be at 23...
Martin Erat (injured, but not on IR)
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.