Canes hitting the ice hard

Intense practices on order for slumping team

Staff writerNovember 16, 2010 

  • When: 7 p.m. Wednesday

    Where: RBC Center, Raleigh

    TV: FSCR Radio: WCMC-99.9

— For almost 80 minutes Monday, the Carolina Hurricanes were on the ice at the RBC Center, grinding, banging, sweating, skating, putting in what everyone agreed afterward was a long but productive practice.

"It was exactly what we needed," defenseman Tim Gleason said. "I probably lost 10 pounds today.

"It was a good up-and down practice where we got back to the basics, back to being a bit of a defensive-minded team and doing the simple things in our zone to get pucks out and avoid chances against."

"Chances against" have been a huge problem the past two games. The Philadelphia Flyers seemingly had scoring chances every other shift and whipped the Canes 8-1 Thursday at the RBC Center, and the Canes then went to Montreal and were beaten 7-2 Saturday by the Canadiens at the Bell Centre.

Golatender Cam Ward has had many good nights at the Bell Centre, but Saturday was not one of them. For the second straight game, he was pulled by coach Paul Maurice in the second period after giving up four goals and was replaced by Justin Peters.

And so Monday's practice was an important one - for Ward, for everyone - as will be today's workout. The Canes' schedule has allowed few good opportunities for practice time, and they want to make the most of it heading into Wednesday's home game against the Ottawa Senators.

"It was a great hour and 20-minute practice with some good flow," Ward said. "Nobody is happy with the last couple of games we've had, but there's nothing you can do about it now. The only thing you can do is continue to work hard and take these practices seriously to better yourself for Wednesday."

Asked what areas of his game he was working on, Ward quickly replied, "I'm working on everything."

"I'm just regrouping," he said. "Obviously at my position, a lot of it is the mental side. I've got to put those games behind me and look to respond with a strong game on Wednesday night.

"Just like everybody else, I've got to hold myself accountable. We know we can play better defensive hockey, and I've got to come up with the big saves."

Maurice said becoming a better team without the puck could be a year-long process, but at the same time insisted he didn't want his team in defensive shells for entire games. Maurice also expects Ward to bounce back quickly.

Ward is a franchise goaltender and well-paid. His name is on the All-Star ballot. He is expected to come up with strong games every start.

"That's part of that maturation process that he and Eric Staal and those players have to go through," Maurice said. "He's still a young man. He's learning what it's like to have to be very good to great every night.

"He is that good, so there is pressure on him to do that."

Maurice said he would make one lineup change for Wednesday. Forward Patrick O'Sullivan, a healthy scratch the past seven games, will replace Jiri Tlusty and will play on the fourth line with Jon Matsumoto and Tom Kostopoulos.

Maurice made some line changes in the third period of the Montreal game and will make some more, with Jussi Jokinen shifted to Brandon Sutter's line opposite winger Patrick Dwyer. The top two lines will remain the same.

Losing never sets well with any team. The players aren't happy. The coaches aren't happy. Management is not happy.

But Maurice realizes there's a fine line between stern enough with his players and getting in enough strenuous work to be productive, and being counterproductive by berating his guys and driving them into ice.

"With a young team, if you crush them on their mistakes, then you will have a year-long of a very difficult time," he said. "Back-to-back [losses] happens. You want to make sure you then don't turn it into a two-week problems by dropping the hammer.

"Not every day is Christmas in the National Hockey League. But before you throw yourself under the bus, you've got to do everything you can to make it better."

chip.alexander@newsobserver.com or 919-829-8945

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