Stevens on returning to practice, West vs East, Vegas

On whether it’s beneficial to have a practice day out of the break:
You hope it’s beneficial. I look at the schedule, there’s a lot of teams playing today. I think when teams come back and play, that actually helps them get up to game speed, so that’ll probably help Vegas for tomorrow. But any time we get an opportunity to practice, we try to just go over all parts of our game, kind of reinforce some fundamentals and details in our game that sometimes you get away from when you’re playing all the time. It’s kind of a unique stretch we have coming up here with the break, games, break, games, break, so we’re trying to take advantage of it. But I think if you asked the players – I was talking with Blakey about that this morning – it’s hard coming right out and playing, so it’s good to kind of work through some of the cobwebs, get a good, up-tempo practice, get some work in and be ready to go tomorrow.

On a heavy stretch of Western Conference games approaching:
Conference and division, yeah. It’s interesting when you look at the schedule now. You play the conference almost as much as the division. It’s three in the conference, four in the division, other than one team’s five. It’s almost as if you’ve got to look at those conference games with equal importance as division games, the way the playoffs are set up. At the beginning of the year we were talking about all the eastern teams we played. Now we’ve got a big run of western teams. It’s a good challenge for us. There’s no easy nights. There isn’t at any time in the league, but it’s a good challenge for us in the conference and the division, for sure.

On the differences between the Western Conference and the Eastern Conference:
I just feel like the east has more of a rush game, but I’m not sure if that’s accurate. It just seems like the west – we were going through all the teams, and it’s funny, when you play teams, you kind of adopt similar things that are working. There’s an awful lot of three-back in the neutral zone in the east now, and most of the west is a 1-2-2 neutral, so that’s one big change, for sure. It just seems like the western teams, I mean, both sides are playing fast. It just seems like there’s more pucks-in-behind, establish a forecheck. The east does that as well, but there’s a lot of rush play, so I don’t know if that’s accurate in terms of the analytic numbers telling you that, but it just feels that way. It’s a little more of a forechecking, a little bit different styles, but obviously good opponents on both sides of the ledger.

On whether he’s surprised at how well Vegas has been this season:
I’m not. The hockey people seemed to know it long before it even happened. The people were saying across the league that they were going to be a really competitive team right away. I think they’ve got a really experienced management team there, they’re really well coached and they’ve got depth. If you look at their forward group there, I just think the roles were set up, and they had people that really did a good job of managing that situation that I think everybody was expecting to be good. I don’t know if they were expecting to be this good, but I think you saw them get out of a gate in a hurry and said, ‘Jeez, when are they going to fall off?,” but they’re not going away. They continue to get better. They’ve absorbed some injuries, especially in the net, which is not easy to do. But they’ve got some really balanced scoring. They play four lines. I was looking at their shifts from the other night. The forwards that played the least amount of shifts, it was 13, the most amount of shifts was 18. That’s about as balanced as you get, right? They’ve got a mobile defense, and they play fast, they play hard. They seem to be winning in a variety of different ways. Sometimes they shut you down, sometimes they outscore you, but they’ve done a great job there.

-Four quotes, including a Christian Folin update, were used in today’s practice report
-Lead photo via Adam Pantozzi/NHLI

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