OTTAWA – After the Minnesota Wild defeated the Montreal Canadiens 4-1 on Saturday, interim Head Coach John Torchetti said he thought his team picked up the pace from its previous game.
"But we still want to be faster though," Torchetti said after the Wild won its third straight road game, and its first to open up a three-game road trip.
So when the Wild returned to practice on Monday at Canadian Tire Centre, a day ahead of its Tuesday game against the Ottawa Senators, the focus was on transitioning up ice, making sure each player knows where to be, and when to be in those spots, and how quickly he needs to get there.
"That's kind of always been our game plan," Zach Parise said. "I feel like we struggled a bit with it last game, but we're always trying to move it up quick, and move our feet, and have a little more speed."
The Wild doesn't want to turn games into a track meet, like it felt it did two games ago early on against the Edmonton Oilers in a first period that saw 25 combined shots, 13 to Edmonton.
But when Minnesota wins pucks back in its own end, it wants to get north quickly and out into transition.
"We've just been talking a little bit more about our exits, and having some forwards down low usually where your centers are being a little comfortable in their calls so we get out of our zone faster, and get our four up the ice," Torchetti said.
The Senators is a team that can play fast, with the likes of captain Erik Karlsson, to forwards Mark Stone and Matt Hoffman.
It's why the Wild knows the little details of its game will be so important, and how quickly it thinks and reacts will influence its pace.
"You have to scan the ice before you get the puck," Jared Spurgeon said. "You have to make sure who's coming down on you, and the position the forwards are in at the same time. That's the theme of practice day-in and day-out, and today we were practicing making sure that we were seeing our options quickly."
Torchetti took many opportunities on Monday to call out different things he was seeing, tweaking small elements like a forward's positioning on a breakout, or how a defenseman was spacing the rush.
"That's the game," Parise said. "It doesn't matter what time of the season it is. You rely on the coaches to see things during the games, and point them out to us, and show us them in practice so we can get better at that stuff.
"It's great for us, and it's only going to help. A couple of feet out there makes a big difference, and if we can help ourselves out either offensively or defensively by changing position, we need that."
The Wild showed the same forward lines and defensive pairings in drills that it had from its game in Montreal. Forward Jason Pominville, who has missed the past two games with a lower-body injury, did not practice on Monday, and will be out on Tuesday. Torchetti said it's likely Pominville would miss the remainder of the road trip.