RALEIGH — Carolina Hurricanes coach Kirk Muller ordered up a long, physical practice Monday at the RBC Center.
As defenseman Bryan Allen put it, "I think it was an example of, 'If you're not going to play, you're going to practice.' "
The Hurricanes were gritty enough Friday in beating the Buffalo Sabres 4-2 at the RBC Center. The Canes were credited with 25 hits and Muller praised the play of his team, saying everyone had a hand in the victory and there were no "passengers."
But Saturday, on the road, the Canes were ripped 5-2 by the Nashville Predators. They had nine hits, allowed four power-play goals and had Muller saying the Canes did have a few passengers along.
With that in mind, the Canes took to the ice Monday to sort a few things out. It often meant players bumping bodies and fighting for pucks.
"Win the battles," Muller shouted. "Jump in there, win the battles."
Defenseman Tim Gleason won one battle with forward Brett Sutter, slamming into Sutter along the boards and sending Sutter flying. Later, forward Chad LaRose was in a puck battle around the net when he slammed his head into the side of the cage.
LaRose, apparently a bit dazed, was taken to the locker room for treatment. On the ice, the battles continued.
"I think the message basically is when we compete hard like we did against Buffalo here, we get certain results and usually in our favor," Muller said. "We've got to do it consistently. We can't depend on what opponent we play against or where we play.
"I thought we did that against Buffalo. I didn't feel we played that kind of way on the road. We can't accept it. I think that's a pretty clear message."
Physical Flyers next
Muller did not name the "passengers" after the Nashville game. He has not called anyone out publicly.
"He didn't single anybody out and I don't know if that's good or not," Allen said. "Maybe it makes guys guess, 'Did I work hard enough?' You might have thought you did but it makes everyone think.
"But you win as a team and you lose as a team and we've all got to be better."
The Canes (14-22-7) host the Philadelphia Flyers (24-12-4) tonight at the RBC Center. That's always a physical test.
After a road game Thursday at Tampa Bay, the Canes return home to face the Boston Bruins on Saturday. The last time the Canes and Bruins tangled, Boston had 17 penalties for 72 minutes as Carolina won 4-1.
"We're not going to beat teams up on the fighting part of things," Gleason said. "Our team is not built for that. But we have some feistiness and we can get in there and cause some ruckus.
"It's about having a team-tough attitude. Being physical, being on the puck, being quick, beating other teams to pucks, beating guys to the net."
Effort yields ice time
Muller will continue to demand a consistency of effort. Those who give him what he wants will play the most minutes. Those who don't will have a good seat.
"One thing as a player you can't control is your ice time," Muller said. "The coach makes a lot of decisions, and the staff. One thing you've got to bring every night is the competitive edge."
The Hurricanes showed that competitiveness against the Sabres. After Buffalo tied the score at 2 in the third period, the Canes responded with goals by LaRose and Brandon Sutter to seal the victory.
Against the Predators, Carolina wasn't as feisty or focused, taking four offensive-zone penalties. By game's end, Nashville had scored on four of five power plays.
"We have an intense game against Buffalo at home and played a certain way, then we go into Nashville and don't have that same intensity," said Allen, who suffered a broken nose late in the Buffalo game. "We had the (nine) hits in the Nashville game, and we're not the kind of team who can have the luxury to do that, and play that sort of game and kind of feel our way and play an easy type of game.
"We've got to work for everything we get here. You can't take nights off."
Muller said he was not sure about LaRose's availability for tonight's game.
"Hopefully he's OK," he said. "He's a good energy guy and we need him in the lineup."
The Canes also could use Jeff Skinner, who has missed the past 13 games as he recovers from a concussion. Muller said Skinner is "closer" to returning but the forward has yet to be cleared for contact and won't play tonight.