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World Cup

Mike Babcock has Team Canada dialed in on details

John Tavares: 'Everything will get covered. … He wants everything to be done well and be done right.'

by Arpon Basu @arponbasu / LNH.com Senior Managing Editor

OTTAWA -- Coach Mike Babcock explained the drill at center ice before all but 10 of Team Canada's players turned toward the benches to grab a seat.

One of them snuck in a quick laugh once his back was turned to Babcock, but the drill couldn't have been more serious.

Every second of Babcock's practices through the first two days of Team Canada training camp at Canadian Tire Centre in preparation for the World Cup of Hockey 2016 could be described using that same word -- serious.

Babcock blew his whistle and the players jumped into action, moving the puck from their zone, crossing center ice, dumping the puck in the offensive zone and going off for a line change. Over and over again, with Babcock pointing out the times he felt a group would have been called for too many men on the ice. After a few rotations in one direction, Babcock had them go the other way to simulate line changes in the second period.

It was jarring to see a collection of some of the world's greatest hockey players practicing something as second nature as changing lines, but it was a perfect example of the attention to detail Babcock and his coaching staff have brought to this training camp.

No stone will be left unturned this week.

"I thought what we were working on was our line change forecheck," Babcock said when asked why he was practicing line changes. "That's when you give up scoring chances. If you go through the game at the end each night, scoring chances, lots come off line changes. So we were trying not to give up a ton of territory on our line changes."

The first day of practice Monday was devoted to offensive-zone work, including entering the zone, cycling the puck and transitioning back toward the offensive zone. During every drill Babcock was shouting detailed instructions to individual players, where he should be on the ice in a given circumstance, what he should do with the puck. 

There was very little warmup and almost no conditioning work. It was tactics and systems right off the bat at an extremely high pace, an immediate signal to the players that summer was over.

"[Babcock] doesn't miss any details," New York Islanders captain John Tavares said. "Everything will get covered. He definitely makes his points directly and wants us to be efficient in the way we practice and the way we play. Everything is covered. We have such a short time frame to work on everything. He wants everything to be done well and be done right."

Team Canada's practices have been split into two sessions. The first is a tactical one, with the practice Tuesday devoted to what appeared to be a very aggressive forechecking scheme the coaching staff is trying to implement. After a break for the ice to be flooded and resurfaced, the second session was spent on special teams.

Washington Capitals coach Barry Trotz is running the power play and Boston Bruins coach Claude Julien is handling the penalty kill, but Babcock's fingerprints are all over this portion of practice as well. He often has stopped drills to give instructions and correct mistakes.

"He demands attention," Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said. "He demands that concentration on the details right away."

The details include how to choose Team Canada's first day off the ice, which is scheduled for Thursday prior to its flight to Columbus to play Team USA in its first pretournament game at Nationwide Arena on Friday (7 p.m. ET; ESPNU, SN, TVA Sports).

"Hip flexor/groin day is Day 4 of camp, so I chose that … we have an off day that day," Babcock said. "We're trying to do everything we can to help them help themselves."

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