There was little down time or wasted movement in the Canes’ practice Wednesday afternoon at PNC Arena. And there was plenty of movement.
Canes coach Kirk Muller spent much of the time shouting “Move it, move it,” or “Shoot the puck, shoot the puck,” as the players skated hard, moved the puck and shot it.
“We just wanted to get a little up-and-down type practice, get our feet moving,” Muller said. “I think it’s a part we want to push a little more with our team. I think since day one we’ve been preaching defensive-zone coverage and being better there, and we are. But now I think we’ve got to get more of that tempo in our game and moving the puck quicker and skating and get our speed back.”
After having a day off, defenseman Ron Hainsey said the Canes’ practice was one of “get pucks to the net, get in front, battle, get the pucks up quickly to the forwards for the rush.”
“You get a lot more accomplished with a practice like that than a mindless skate-around,” Hainsey said. “That’s how you have a good, hard practice. Get some hard work in as well as some productivity with the puck. It was a real good skate.”
Forwards Jeff Skinner and Radek Dvorak were not at practice. Neither was defensemen Justin Faulk, whom Muller said had a “maintenance day” and would be back at practice Thursday.
Skinner, who has an upper-body injury, will not play the upcoming back-to-back against Tampa Bay on Friday and the New York Rangers on Saturday, Muller said, but Dvorak could return. Forward Kevin Westgarth left practice Wednesday with an upper-body injury and Muller was not sure about his availability for Thursday.
Defenseman Brett Bellmore, coming off a lower-body injury, was at practice Wednesday and is “good to go,” Muller said.
The Canes, in a 3-1 loss to Pittsburgh on Monday, had a season-low 21 shots. The scoring chances have been there, Muller said, in the Canes’ three-game losing streak but they haven’t been able to finish around the net.
“At the end of the day we have to bear down on our chances,” Muller said. “They’re there.”
Added Hainsey: “You’ve got to play with confidence with the puck, especially with the players we have. They can make plays and score goals. They’ve proven that over and over.
“And it’s a team thing. The D need to get the puck to the forwards as soon as we can and early in shifts, so that they have the gas to go the other way and don’t have to play in our zone for 30 seconds because we can’t get them the puck. That’s just as important as what we do in the offensive zone, how quickly we can get it up. “
Muller said he had no problem with the Canes’ defense in recent games. It’s more about having better puck movement and puck placement. And shots.
“We’re in every game because I think we’re defending much better,” he said. “Now we have to get different results at the end of the night . I think it goes hand in hand. Now, we’re a little too one-on-one and being outnumbered, so it’s tough to generate some offense that way. We have to get back to knowing where we’re going to put the puck, get on it quicker. What it comes down to is being a better forechecking team. Arriving quicker, and with support.
“A big part of the game is what you do when you have the puck and puck placement and putting pucks in an area where you can get it again. I think we’ve gotten in a little bit of a trap of doing too much one-on-one hockey. I think we have to have a little more support with each other and outnumber the other teams in areas and do it by skating. But a lot has to do with where you put the puck and you take the hesitation out of your game. We refocused on that area today.”