What does a team do when it only has three games in the span of nine days?
Practice, practice, practice.
But practice doesn't always have to be grueling or mundane, or even a punishment. Coaches and players are always trying to find ways to keep it light and fresh. Today, the Ducks began their on-ice work with a passing drill that took on a life of its own.
The passing "competition" included four or five players - or passers - stationed around the faceoff dot and a solo skater on the outside. The goal for the passers was to touch the puck at least twice before the skater made two laps around the faceoff dot. Whoever finished first got a free pass, and the loser(s) had to drop and do a set of push-ups. It got lively and intense, and in the end it put the players in a good mood before they got down to business.
"I think Randy [Carlyle] thought we didn't know how to pass," defenseman Josh Manson joked. "It took me back to when I was a little bit younger. It was a nice light way to start practice. Any time you get us doing any kind of competition, it always lightens the mood a little bit because guys take it seriously."
Is there concern that the extended time between games could have a negative effect on the team? Could it take a team out of the groove or tamper a routine? Manson doesn't think so. "The season is so long and strenuous," he said. "When you have these gaps, you have to take advantage of them. It should be a positive thing. You start playing every other day and it starts taking its toll on the body."
There are certain challenges, however, as head coach Randy Carlyle described in his post-practice interview. "There are lots of things we need to cover in practice," he said. "The one thing we've tried to sell is practice isn't punishment. We're here to practice to get better. Our team game has to get better. We played a game we weren't proud of for the first half of the game against Tampa. We didn't have the puck enough and we played in awe of them. We don't want to duplicate that again."
Ducks forward Ondrej Kase did not skate with the team today as he continues to recover from an upper-body injury that occurred November 7 vs. Los Angeles. The 22-year-old is still on injured reserve but did off-ice work today. "Hopefully he'll skate tomorrow," Carlyle said. "That will be the first step for him coming back to our group."
Goaltender Ryan Miller was on the ice prior to the start of practice and is "a couple days away" from joining the team, according to Carlyle. Miller last appeared on November 9 vs. Vancouver and has missed one game since.
Carlyle is hopeful defenseman Cam Fowler starts skating before the week is over. Fowler suffered a knee injury on October 20 against Montreal and the latest timeframe on his recovery was six weeks from the time of the injury.