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Mini-game fun end to first day of practice

by Adam Kimelman

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- For their first day on the ice as a full group, U.S. coach Phil Housley focused on drills that got his players' legs moving and blood pumping. And the players afterward said it was just what they needed.

"Everybody's upbeat today, good tempo, try to get the feet moving," forward J.T. Miller said. "It wasn't all that grueling of a practice. We all played [Saturday] for the most part. We've just got to make sure we take every practice like it's a game and come out ready to go."

Most of the drills focused on transition play, which Housley said will be a major part of the team's game plan when they arrive in Ufa, Russia for the 2013 IIHF World Junior Championship.

A number of the drills were familiar to most of the 27 players here at the MSG Training Center, as they were the same as the ones Housley ran at the USA Hockey summer evaluation camp in Lake Placid, N.Y., in August.

"It was awesome because not everything is new," defenseman Connor Murphy told "We're doing a lot of the same system stuff that coach Housley emphasized in the summer, so it's nice to pick up on that and hopefully we'll have a good team going forward."

The practice ended with a three-on-three mini-game, as the goals were pulled up to the blue lines and the players were forced to execute in close quarters.

"That was nice," defenseman Seth Jones said. "Develop a little chemistry with the guys. It's a tough game -- tough on the body, too. It's in tight. You really have to work together as a unit of three to score goals."

It was physical, but it also was fun and a good way to cap the first of what will be three busy days for the players as they prepare for exhibition games in Finland next week ahead of the start of the WJC.

"It was a little more fun, compete at the end of practice," Murphy said. "It was nice to get the creativity going, fuel some fire with some of the guys and mess around a bit.

"It's been a lot of fun so far."

Contact Adam Kimelman at Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

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