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TV time helps Hitchcock get message across

by Dan Rosen /
Columbus coach Ken Hitchcock figured bag skating his team in Thursday's practice following Wednesday night's humiliating 9-1 home loss to Detroit wouldn't be an effective way of getting his points across.

Instead, he tried something brand new. He believes the tactic sent a clearer and more purposeful message.

Hitchcock meshed a video session with the on-ice portion of Thursday's practice, bringing a large television to the bench early in practice so the players could watch what went wrong Wednesday night and then immediately go to work correcting the errors.

"I have never done that before, where I've brought video onto the bench," Hitchcock said Thursday during an NHL conference call to celebrate the fact that he has coached in 1,000 NHL games, a milestone reached Wednesday night against Detroit. "I thought if I'm going to take some of this stuff into the practice, practice some of the things we need to work on, I have to show it."

The video centered on just one element: Columbus' forecheck.

Hitchcock was disgusted with the way his team forechecked against the Red Wings. He felt they gave up the middle of the ice way too easily.

"Detroit makes you pay for over-pursuit and we were over-pursuing the puck," Hitchcock said. "Detroit was able to snap it through the middle of the ice on us all night. We have a young team and it's difficult to teach patience with a young team. The puck becomes a magnet and Detroit makes you pay dearly if the puck becomes magnet. We really got sucked in to the puck and gave up the middle of the ice so many times. They just came through us out of their zone far too easily. Then they came at us with a lot of speed."

Hitchcock said he saw the players staring at the television, a sign that they were attentively listening and watching.

"We had the kind of a day where there wasn't a lot of laughter," Hitchcock said. "I'm not sure what they thought of it, but I know when your number gets called and you're up on the video, there were things that weren't pretty. It was really there to reinforce the things we weren't doing well and we had to make those changes."

The practice as a whole started out slow, Hitchcock said, because "guys were a little down." However, he said the players responded positively after seeing the videos and overall the practice "had structured intensity to it."

"We were making the same errors and the same mistakes (against Atlanta and Carolina). We paid for it against Detroit," Hitchcock said. "So, rather than just go through something that is strictly punishment, we put structure into the intensity. I thought as we moved forward our players responded the right way."

In other news, Hitchcock said left wing Kristian Huselius, who missed the last four games with a shoulder injury, is going to play Friday against Anaheim. He practiced Thursday on the top line with center Antoine Vermette and right wing Rick Nash.

Huselius' return comes just in time as left wing Raffi Torres is likely out a week or two after taking a deflected puck off his face in the first period Wednesday. Third-line center Sammy Pahlsson will also miss Friday's game with an upper-body injury that isn't believed to be serious.

"We lose two good players and we get one back," Hitchcock said.

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