After last night's 3-2 loss to the Islanders on home ice, today's practice at Barnabas Health Hockey House was a definite work day.
Head coach John Hynes wanted the players to pay attention to their body positioning and stick placement in an attempt to avoid another game featuring a parade to the penalty box, like they experienced last night. The players worked on battle drills that put them in situations to potentially expose their tendencies to take stick penalties, and every time Hynes saw one, he'd stop practice and make them sprint. He also stopped practice anytime he saw something he didn't like, and then explained what it was and the adjustment he'd like them to make so it didn't happen again. The goal is to improve their habits both with and without the puck.
"Defensively, we wanted to be able to be in situations where they're in tight, confrontational situations where you really have to use body position and stick position as opposed to hooking or tripping," Hynes explained. "The details of where your sticks are determine whether you ought to get a penalty or be able to kill the play.
"Offensively, [we worked on] a lot of the one-on-one stuff down low. Structurally, we feel like we're good in the offensive zone, but there's too many plays that are dying behind the goal line or below the tops of the circles where we think if we can be stronger on the puck offensively in those areas," he continued. "It's going to create more offensive zone time and help us be a more territorial, offensive team. That was a big part of [practice] and the second part was really trying to work ourselves up ice as a five man unit, so when we defend, we're not just defending, we're trying to create numbers to get on offense."
As I mentioned in my blog last night, another point of emphasis to today's practice was getting the puck to the net and cashing in on the opportunities to score when they present themselves.
"[Making better decision is] something we've talked to the players quite a bit about and we need to create better goal scoring habits," Hynes said. "We really feel we have good players, guys that can score and we don't think we should be a 30th team on offense, but in order to get out of that we have to have good habits in and around the net and in scoring situations instead of looking for that extra pass or highlight play. Let's put ourselves in better positions to score goals."
Some other news to pass along: defenseman Kyle Quincey is out with a lower body injury and is day-to-day.
The team will practice again tomorrow before traveling to West Point on Saturday to play Florida in their final preseason game. The final cuts are expected to come on Sunday with another two full days of practice before the team travels to Florida for the first game of the season a week from tonight.
Get excited….the 2016-17 season is upon us!!