Once the NHL season gets going, it's not exactly typical to get two consecutive practice days between games. But that's exactly what the Nashville Predators had this week, and they certainly made good use of the time.
Wednesday's session wasn't the easiest - plenty of skating between drills after a performance on Tuesday against Dallas that Head Coach Peter Laviolette and the team weren't satisfied with.
So the last two days were utilized to not only fix what hasn't worked so far, but also to muster up something fresh.
"There's things we can do better on the ice," Laviolette said. "You get practice time and get an opportunity to work on things; we were able to do that for different parts of the game, whether it be the battles or skating or systems, 3-on-3, power play, there's different things you can work on. Anytime you get practice days, I think it's a good thing."
Near or at the forefront is the team's 5-on-5 play. While the Preds special teams have been impressive through the first three games, including five power-play goals, their efforts at even strength, say the players, need improvement.
"Our special teams have been pretty good, so we have to keep that going, but 5-on-5, we want to generate more offense," defenseman P.K. Subban said. "I think it's just the little things, the little details, just paying attention to small things that should help us. We worked and we talked about those little things over the past couple days, and tomorrow we'll have to put them to work and make sure that we're focusing on them."
"I think it starts with the forecheck," forward Filip Forsberg said. "Getting the puck in there and being a little faster, getting guys in the battles, I think that's the biggest thing to create some time. From there, we can start getting some chances as well."
In an effort to obtain better results, Laviolette showed some new forward lines at Thursday's practice, including the trio of Mike Ribeiro, Filip Forsberg and Craig Smith together. That group was the most prolific line for the Preds during their franchise record 14-game point streak last season, and is just one of the combos that could provide a spark up front.
"We have to be better 5-on-5 and we have to find ways to score," Captain Mike Fisher said. "One of those things is just finding the right groups and hopefully this will help.
While the Predators are just three games in, it's just as imperative to collect as many points in October as it is in April. With a game in Detroit on Friday, followed by an outing with Pittsburgh in Nashville on Saturday, four more points are up for contention against two highly skilled hockey clubs.
"We have to get back to just working, and I think the guys felt good about practice the last two days," Fisher said. "We have to learn. It's not where we want to be, but we're going to get there."
Combos and Pairings:
Defenseman Ryan Ellis returned to practice on Thursday after missing Wednesday with a maintenance day. All healthy players were present on Thursday and skated with a different look up front.
Predators Practice Lineup
|Forwards || || |
|Calle Jarnkrok ||Ryan Johansen ||James Neal |
|Filip Forsberg ||Mike Ribeiro ||Craig Smith |
|Colin Wilson ||Mike Fisher ||Viktor Arvidsson |
|Cody Bass ||Colton Sissons ||Kevin Fiala |
|Defense || || |
|Roman Josi ||P.K. Subban || |
|Mattias Ekholm ||Ryan Ellis || |
|Yannick Weber ||Matt Carle || |
|Goaltenders || || |
|Pekka Rinne ||Marek Mazanec || |