Weeks such as this one lead to interesting decisions from coaches. If you start with three basic assumptions — 1) Frequent games lead to tired players, 2) Staying off the ice is the only way to get rested, and 3) Practicing is the only way to improve — what exactly do you do, as a coach, with three days between games right now? Is it better to rest or to get on the ice and work through problems?
For Terry Murray, the answer was to put his team through a grueling 80-minute practice Sunday, and put the players back on the ice tomorrow for a 10 a.m. practice. The need to work through mistakes, it seems, trumps a day off. Consider, also, that the Kings got a day off Thursday, and it didn’t seem to help them much on Saturday…
Here’s what Murray said today about the lengthy, tough practice:
MURRAY: “It was much needed. It’s been a long time since we had an opportunity to get quality work in, in practice. I certainly welcomed the opportunity to get back into this practice. I think, when the players get away today and get back home, and they’re able to sit down and think about it, they’ll say the same thing. We’ve played a lot, with lots of travel, so it’s good.”
Realistically, only players know when they’re being pushed too much. With that in mind, I asked captain Dustin Brown if he thought the long practice was needed, considering how much the Kings have played of late.
BROWN: “It’s a balance, really. We’ve been playing a lot, but when you don’t practice that much, you get away from the basics, and sometimes you need a good, hard practice. We had one today that was tough, but at the same time, we haven’t had a practice like that in a couple weeks, at least, and only a couple throughout the year.”
Later, when asked about the balanced minutes he gave to the forwards and defensemen yesterday, Murray gave an interesting answer about his team’s energy level, essentially confirming that he has a tired team on his hands.
MURRAY: “I’ve seen this coming for a while, what’s going on here right now with our energy overall. It’s down. The fact of the matter is, the scheduling does play a part in this. Quality practice time is not there. With the travel, it all plays into it. When you look at the schedule, as you get started at the beginning of the year, in my experience I can project when you’re going to start to hit the downside of a cycle.
“So we consciously made a decision to get more guys to play more minutes at this time. I would like to continue with that, if I can. If everybody responds to it the right way, I would like to stay with it. I would love to see Harry and Richie on the penalty kill, and making a real contribution and not just filling in on the last few seconds of a PK. I’d like to see them be a big part of that. That would help with our top-end players and keep them a little fresher. I think, overall, our team performance would be at a higher level through the difficult times of the schedule.”