Saturday marked another two-session practice at the RWJBarnabasHealth Hockey House. Coach John Hynes kept his promise that practice would be up-tempo to help keep his team focused and ready during the long stretch before the regular season starts.
It's up to the players to maintain the focus and intensity required to stay ready for competition. That players have internalized that was apparent at practice, which featured hard-fought drills, a lot of defensive work and focus. John Quenneville and Will Butcher were not on the ice for the first session, though both joined their teammates in the second practice session.
Chemistry is beginning to form on the top line at practice. For a second straight day, Pavel Zacha centered Taylor Hall and Kyle Palmieri. They've played several games together in the preseason, and Coach Hynes said after practice that there is a strong possibility this will be the first line on opening day. The rest of the lineup had Nico Hischier centering Marcus Johansson and Drew Stafford; Adam Henrique centered a line between Jesper Bratt and Jimmy Hayes, with Nick Lappin rotating with Bratt on Henrique's line; and Joseph Blandisi centered the fourth line with Miles Wood and Brian Gibbons rotating on the left wing with Stefan Noesen on the right side.
The second part of practice was again dedicated to special teams. As seen in the game in P.E.I., Coach Hynes electing to go with five forwards on his first power play unit:
The second unit was a little more conventional with three forward and two defensemen.
Saturday was the final practice before the team heads to West Point, N.Y. for a team bonding trip. Coach Hynes expressed his desire for the team to use the experience to get to know each other better. Coach says he wants to create an environment of brotherhood, not neighborhood.
• Michael McLeod did not skate with his teammates today. He was injured in Monday's game against the Islanders. While he participated in Friday's practice, he was held out Saturday. He did, however, participate in off-ice workouts with team trainers. He is considered day-to-day.
• Newcomer Brian Boyle skated on his own before the morning session.
• Forward Kevin Rooney and goalie Ken Appleby were sent to Binghamton. Defensemen Viktor Loov was placed on waivers.