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The Devils had three main focuses for Wednesday practice session in New Jersey

by Sam Kasan @SamiKasan /

NEWARK, N.J. - The Devils held practice Wednesday afternoon. And, as with every practice or morning skate, they worked with a purpose.

"We try to design every drill with something you want to accomplish," head coach Lindy Ruff said. 

Some of those details Wednesday included special teams, gap control on odd-man rushes and 6-on-5 play. 

Video: PRACTICE RAW | Lindy Ruff 04.28.21

The Devils have had a lead late in the third period of their previous two games against Philadelphia Sunday and Tuesday. In the former, the Devils watched their 3-1 lead dissipate into a 4-3 shootout loss as the Flyers scored twice with the extra attacker. In the latter, the Devils made a 5-4 lead stand in a 6-4 final while defending against the extra attacker. 

"We worked on 6-on-5 on the offensive side and defensive side, making sure that every line knows their assignment," said Ruff, who noted that with teams pulling their goaltender with around three minutes to play that the Devils will typically need three lines ready to handle the assignment.  

"Every line went through their reps," Ruff said. "Having all of those guys in tune was something that we worked on today."

Special teams are always a part of practice. But their importance can't be overstated. After all, the Devils won the special teams battle Tuesday night against the Flyers with a plus-2. But still only won by one goal (if you discount the empty-net goal that was scored with two seconds remaining in regulation). 

It was a perfect evening for special teams as the power play went 2-for-2 and the penalty kill went 2-for-2. New Jersey even killed off a four-minute double minor penalty early in the first period, allowing just one shot. 

The Devils' power-play success came from attacking the Flyers through their PK box. Captain Nico Hischier scored the first man-advantage score, but that came after Pavel Zacha was able to feed a puck from the goal line through the crease to Jack Hughes. Zacha would score the second power-play tally when Hughes passed to him through two sticks in the slot. 

"Getting pucks to the inside," Ruff said of the team's two power-play goals. "Those plays were there in previous games. We didn't make them. We chose to move it around (the perimeter). I think we had some disconnection when we got pucks low, that extra piece wasn't there. If we were three low, we should be four low. 

"We've been working hard to try and get these guys connected, to get them into the right spots so that not only do you have a shooting option, but a rebound option. We saw a couple really nice plays today in practice and we saw a couple really nice goals last night."

They also saw a jubilant group at practice, the result of ending a 0-9-1 skid that hung around the players. That liberation was palpable during the on-ice session. 

"Mood and energy were great," Ruff said. "Great to see them get rewarded for putting a lot of work in ... There was a lot of disappointment inside that room with the previous game (Sunday). There were some ups and downs in that game, but to get through it and win a game by a good night on special teams, a couple great kills, a great power play, I thought we skated well (today). The energy was great. It was probably a big relief for all these players."

He then added: "Including myself."

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