It is the small details that sometimes make the biggest impact in a hockey game, and on Monday at practice the New Jersey Devils began by working on those very basics of hockey: stick handling and skating.
There isn't necessarily a ton of practice time to work on basics during a busy NHL regular season, and so with a substantial break between games, coach John Hynes left it up to development/skills coach coach Pertti Hasanen to take over the lead.
"It's really important and something we try to do throughout the course of the year," Hynes said. "It's important as the season goes on that you make time for the guys to work on individual skills. Because there are so many games and practices where sometimes it's nice to focus on puck touches and offensive skills."
The team was split into defense and offense as each group worked with Hasanen for about 45 minutes.
Hasanen had the groups work on an array of different skating, stick handling and shooting techniques. For defensemen, skills ranged from basic skating techniques to faking slap shots while skating up the ice. Hasanen had the players do it all. You can see some of the drills in the Tweets below:
Forwards had a primary focus on accuracy shooting, and where goalies were not available, the Shooter Tutor came out. Players were divided into groups of three, with two players feeding the shooter pucks from in close. Brian Boyle, Jesper Bratt and Taylor Hall were grouped together and you can see them run through the drill below:
Practices with coach Hasanen like Monday's are one of the reasons that defensemen Will Butcher decided to join the New Jersey Devils this past offseason.
"[When I visited], Coach Hynes said we sit down and we actually still work on your skill," Butcher said. "He broke it down to me, in the sense that you can lose skill over the course of the season if you just do systems and game plans, you're not getting puck touches and that sort of thing."
The rookie defensemen wishes there could be more practices like this, as they appeal to him as a hockey player.
"It's great," he said. "I love doing skills stuff. I'll do that stuff every day. For me being a younger guy, and to settle back and focus on your raw skill something like that is really cool."
Those sentiments were echoed by another rookie, Nico Hischier.
"I really enjoyed it," Hischier said. "It's fun. Skills practice are something different. They're fun, shoot some pucks and dangle a little bit."
There isn't always time in the season to work on the very basics with Hasanen, but Butcher said he is happy to see that it's part of this week's practice schedule. The team doesn't play a game again until Friday.
"I'm glad we're capitalizing on this right now," Butcher said. "I'm glad to see we're getting this going right away. With 82 games it's hard to fit them in. I'm looking forward to doing more throughout the course of the season."
Finally, Hynes also provided updates on injured players. Cory Schneider skated on his own this morning, nursing his lower body injury. He is still considered day-to-day. Kyle Palmieri did not skate Monday after being injured in practice on Sunday. He is also considered day-to-day and will not skate at least until Thursday.