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World Cup

Todd McLellan getting to point for Team North America

Coach's message clear at second practice with first pretournament game two days away

by Sean Farrell / Correspondent

MONTREAL -- Team North America coach Todd McLellan's instructions to his 23-and-younger players from the United States and Canada were clear at their second World Cup of Hockey 2016 practice.

You did not have to be on the ice at Bell Centre on Tuesday to hear McLellan, who at one point expressed his desire for a drill to be done at "game speed, not at summer speed."

"Well, we're trying to jam a lot of information into three days," McLellan said. "You know, we play in three days, and we're trying to give them simple structure and give them an idea of what … we're trying to predict what might happen on the ice for each of them. After that, we're turning them loose and we're going to get them going. So we're walking them through situations, whether it's the power-play breakout, it's our one opportunity."

Team North America, which has five players who were the No. 1 pick at the NHL Draft, including Connor McDavid (2015) and Auston Matthews (2016), has one more practice before playing its first pretournament game against Team Europe in Quebec City on Thursday (8 p.m. ET; ESPN2, SN, TVA Sports).

"I think everybody's really looking forward to it," said Matthews, who was drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs and is expected to make his NHL debut next month. "You know, have a good week of practice and then we'll be able to go measure ourselves against a really good team. It's going to be a good challenge for us."

Video: Scheifele on how Team North America will find success

For the second straight day, McLellan spent a significant portion of practice clearly and deliberately instructing what he wanted done, with the help of assistants Jon Cooper, Gerard Gallant, Dave Tippett and Jay Woodcroft.

"We're laying our foundation now, and then we believe we can grow it as we go along, but like I told our guys, if we're in, for argument's sake, first grade right now as far as the power play goes, we've got to get to grade 5 here quite quickly," McLellan said. "But we're not getting there unless we get the basics down. It was interesting, we ran a power-play breakout today, and Johnny Gaudreau made just a read and an adjustment, which is something that we're going to get to tomorrow, but he's already at it today.

"So that's how skilled and talented these guys are, but we're trying to lay the foundation down and walk through things, try to keep the pace up enough but stop in those key moments where we're going to need it."

After the ice was resurfaced, McLellan ran drills with two Team North America power-play units during the second half of practice. McDavid centered one unit with defenseman Aaron Ekblad and forwards Jack Eichel, Brandon Saad and Mark Scheifele.

"We're able to put together a pretty good power-play unit no matter who's out there," McDavid said. "I mean, you look up and down the lineup, I think anyone you put out there is going to be good on the power play. So that's the way it sits right now; obviously, everything is subject to change. We'll see how it goes, and hopefully we can put something together with those five guys."

Video: Amalie Benjamin on the World Cup of Hockey

Eichel was selected No. 2 by the Buffalo Sabres in the 2015 draft after McDavid was chosen by the Edmonton Oilers.

"He's definitely a special player and someone that you'd rather have on your side," McDavid said. "So to be on the power play with him and all that, it's dangerous. I mean, he's got a great shot over on that side. When he plays the left side, he's got a great one-timer, so he's a dangerous shooter."

The second power-play unit featured Matthews and Gaudreau among six players, including defensemen Shayne Gostisbehere and Colton Parayko, and forwards Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin.

"I think we're just coming together," Gostisbehere said. "They're laying out a blueprint for us, a structure, and we're just going to let our hockey skills take care of the rest. It's plain and simple, we're just going to go out there and play hockey."

Defenseman Ryan Murray is on board with the coaching staff's approach to preparing Team North America for its first game.

"It's been good, it's been up-tempo," Murray said. "It hasn't been too grueling. I think that they've done a good job of kind of easing us into it, but at the same time, it's been tough. It's been good getting our legs going, so I think there's a little bit of anxiety going with getting the season going again. We've been off for so long, so I think that once we get that first exhibition game out of the way, I think things are just going to keep rolling."

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