Habs prep for Hurricanes with relaxed attitude

Peter Koutroumpis, Triangle Sports Network
Peter Koutroumpis, Triangle Sports Network

RALEIGH, N.C. – As both the Carolina Hurricanes and Montreal Canadiens held full practices at PNC Arena on Monday, the method of preparation for the game they used was different but intended to achieve the same result.

After suffering a 5-2 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Sunday, Carolina coach Kirk Muller ran practice as usual with some line adjustments and kept his players focused on crisp passing and fine-tuning their shooting on goaltenders Cam Ward and Justin Peters.

Going winless for the past five games, the Hurricanes (14-16-9) will begin the game only three points out of third place in the Metropolitan Division standings, but their chances to stay that close much longer will slip away if more wins don’t accumulate soon and more often.

“We can’t get frustrated,” Muller said.

“At the end of the day, we’ve gotta’ get results. I think the message for us is we’re playing good hockey, but the results aren’t there in the end. Quite simply, we’ve gotta’ go back to where we started the season at the beginning where we were checkers and we played well without the puck. We gave ourselves a chance win all these tight games and we gotta’ get back to that mentality and when they opportunities are there, we’ve gotta’ capitalize on them.”

In a similar situation, Montreal traveled to Raleigh following a tough 4-1 loss to the Florida Panthers on Sunday.

Sitting in third place in the Atlantic Division, Montreal (23-14-3) hasn’t hit the consistent stride that it wants to either, but head coach Michel Therrien took a different approach to how his team would prepare for its game against Carolina.

Instead of punishing his players with a grueling workout, Therrien engaged them in a relaxed, yet competitive session.

He was questioned if he had lost his coaches handbook.

“After a game like last night, aren’t you supposed to bag skate them?,” a team beat reporter asked.

Therrien responded with a chuckle and replied,“what is important I believe, is the spirit of the hockey team, and to make sure for us as a coaching staff to bring a good atmosphere with the players.”

“Last night, everyone was frustrated. The players were frustrated. The coaching staff, the same thing, so we were all disappointed. We thought that this morning was a good time to play a little game and have a lot of fun. I think the guys had a lot of fun today.”

For defenseman P.K. Subban, the opportunity to let off some steam with his teammates while still working to keep their game-situation skills sharp was important.

“It’s good to be able to play games like that in practice,” Subban said.

“You don’t see that too much in pro, but you can see guys are still competitive. Guys wanna’ win, but it was fun.”

He continued on to point out what a change of pace does for the atmosphere in the dressing room and interaction amongst the players.

“I think that especially in sports, whether you’re going through good times and bad times, it’s important to have guys wanting to be at the rink and wanting to be around each other,” Subban said.

“We’ve got a good group of guys in here. It’s always fun to be able to do that. Sometimes you practice things over and over again. It’s just a matter of getting your mind off things, having fun, and coming back with a fresh kind of feeling. I think that’s what we’re hoping for tomorrow – have a good pregame skate – and get back to doing what we do best.”

Having used that method of pressure relief for his players throughout his coaching career, Therrien pointed out that there was a limit to doing it.

“You don’t want to do it too often, but you gotta’ surprise the players,” he continued.

“We called a meeting before practice. They weren’t quite sure what direction we were gonna’ go, so when we said we were going to play that game and they made that draft (of teams), it was fun.”

As both Muller and Therrien continued to work to get their teams headed in a consistently winning direction, it was evident that regardless of which side of the rink the message came from or in what language it was spoken, it was the same.

“It’s a long season, they’re all big games, you know,” Therrien concluded.

“They’re fighting to make the playoffs, and for us it’s the same thing. We’re part of a group that wants to make the playoffs, so every game in the NHL, they’re all tough to play.”