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Photo Credit: Ian Kucerak / Postmedia

Practice Notes

There was no inspirational speech. No conditioning skate.

Neither was required. But there was a heightened attention to details, especially how they support one another through the neutral zone.

The lines and D pairs were as follows:

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RNH-McDavid-Puljujarvi
Kahun-Draisaitl-Yamamoto
Shore-Khaira-Archibald
Neal-Haas-Chiasson

Looks like Kahun, Chiasson and Shore are in and Ennis, Turris and Nygard are out.

The D pairs:

Nurse-Barrie
Lagesson-Larsson

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Those are the top two pairs as Lagesson looks good to go.

Russell-Bouchard
Jones-Bear

One of those two pairs will be the third pairing tomorrow.

Mike Smith was in the starter’s goal and looks to get the nod tomorrow.

Here is a quick run-down of practice:

They worked on two-on-two rushes. Nothing complicated, just getting legs moving and trying to create off the rush.

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Then there was a drill that started with puck at the blueline, defender walking the line and getting a shot on goal with some traffic in front. And from that shot, the puck was turned up ice and they worked on D-men pressing winger against the boards early in the neutral zone.

The next drill was five-on-five in their lines and D pairings.

Puck started in the corner with three forwards (group A) against two D-men. Pass from the corner to start and see if they can get a shot, and then whistle blew. Coach would then pass a puck to (Group B) forwards who were high in zone, and they would skate up the ice, and Group A were now on a backcheck, as Group B went up the ice on a three-on-two against D-men. It resulted in O-zone pressure and Group B cycling the puck and trying to win battles to keep play alive for the one group, and Group A defending.

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It was followed up by a simple breakout drill where there were no forecheckers, and D would move it quickly through the neutral zone and forwards would go in and shoot on Mikko Koskinen. No fancy passing, just pass from D to D, up to the winger or centre in neutral zone, who would then pass to another forward and they’d go in and shoot.

Then it was the same breakout, but this time against another line of five. The focus was on moving the puck up from high inside the D zone, up through the neutral zone and into the offensive zone.

Tippett blew his whistle after the first rushes were stopped easily. He wasn’t impressed.

“Toronto jammed this whole thing (neutral zone) up and spent the whole game in our end. We can’t have one guy trying to go through everyone. Let’s move the puck. Do things right do it together, and execute and that’s how you get better and that’s how we become a better. Play with “bleeping” confidence. Do what you’re supposed to do with five guys on the ice.”

He added in a few other choice words, that I can’t completely remember accurately so I don’t want to misquote what he said. But basically he wasn’t happy with how they tried to move up the ice.

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He focused on D to D passes, then forwards circling back in the zone, to give good outlets and move up the ice as a five man unit. They were spread out too often against Toronto and that allowed the Leafs to stop them in the neutral zone too often.

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Then it was the same drill at each end of the rink.

Players lined up at the top of the circles, and coach would dump a puck in the corner and it was three forwards against one defender. Worked on quick puck retrieval, and quick passes to create a scoring chance while the defender had to pressure all over.

After a save or D-man got it out, the coach would fire puck into other corner and the group would go again. Lasted about 20 seconds each group and then another line and D-man would rotate in.

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That was the end of practice. Quick, up tempo, with a focus on some basics, mainly getting through the neutral zone.

After a brief stretch players stayed on the ice working on a variety of different skills.

Ennis and Tippett had a lengthy 15-minute chat at centre ice. Ethan Bear and Jim Playfair had a chat along the boards after he was finished doing some work on his edges.

At one end of the rink, Larsson, Nurse and Barrie worked on picking up pucks off the boards, controlling it and making a pass across to their partner.

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Lagesson, Bear, Jones,Khaira, Shore and Patrick Russell worked with skating coach David Pelletier on some edge work, tight turns and “eagle/mohawk” turn drill in the neutral zone.

And then some forwards were at the other end taking shots on Koskinen. Glen Gultuzan would pass from the corner to any one of the forwards who were at the top of circle. They would take the pass, and go in on short breakaway, or take a quick shot.

Was more of a fun competition than anything.

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