EDMONTON, Alta. – The Oilers mixed things up today in practice, taking advantage of both having a world-class facility with two rinks at their disposal – while also having a coaching staff with extensive experience and familiarity.
On main ice at Rogers Place, forwards practiced at a brisk pace with an emphasis on moving with the puck on their stick, while defensemen took to the Downtown Community Arena where they focused on puck movement and stick checking.
“I think we had a good day today. I think it was, like I said, a lot of puck touches,” head coach Jay Woodcroft said of the doubles sessions. . “We’ve worked on our puck confidence and by dividing it up, we’re able to work on different ice surfaces at the same time, working on completely different things that are suited to each position. »
The extra space and time to play with the puck was welcomed by the players who put themselves to the test this afternoon.
“I don’t think we had a chance to do that until halfway through the season, but in training camp you sometimes do that sort of thing,” Ryan Nugent Hopkins said about the session. “I think it’s good to get back to basics a bit, work on your skills, touch the puck often and come off the ice feeling good. »
The Oilers are currently stuck in an environment with a large group of NHL teams that also continue to seek consistency that can separate them from the pack. There are just four points separating the NHL’s eighth-ranked team and the 21st-ranked team going into Thursday night’s games.
Edmonton tried a bit of everything to get all cylinders firing at the same time, and today’s practice was no different. The split sessions took a long time to prepare for the Oilers coaching staff, but with three separate periods on the ice before Saturday’s game against the Western Conference-leading Vegas Golden Knights on Thursday was the day to implement it.
“It’s something we had planned for our pre-season. We plan to try to find time for our players to touch the puck individually and work for every position, including goaltenders,” Woodcroft said. “And with the way this week has been structured coming back from Florida – we had team practice on Tuesday and skating yesterday. We decided that was a good way to mix it up with practice tomorrow being more focused on the team structure.”
With two sheets of ice and a head coach, Woodcroft found himself wandering between the two rinks, keeping tabs on how the Oilers were taking tutelage from his assistant coaches.
“I think the way today has been structured, it’s important to give your assistant coaches a voice as well. I think it’s healthy for players to hear different voices,” Woodcroft said of the match. handing over the reins to his team.
Woodcroft is blessed with a wealth of experience from their coaching staff. His longtime right-hand man, Dave Manson, led the back, while former NHL head coach Glen Gulutzan managed the forwards. Woodcroft was quick to give credit to his other associates, but having a variety of voices allowed the Oilers to tailor their sessions around specific, goal-oriented results.
“We have a very good staff and what I think we are doing in this situation is we are trying to plan what our players need, plan skill specific things that will help our team concept,” said Woodcroft. “The forwards obviously worked a bit, as I said, on puck touches and some things around the net. Our defenders had completely different training on the other side.
All things considered, the practice was very well received by the players who skated on Thursday.
“I think talking with some of the players who were there on both sheets was a welcome thing,” Woodcroft said after practice. “Let them leave the rink feeling good about their skills and then come back tomorrow for team practice where we’ll work on parts of our structure.”