RALEIGH – If anyone understands the importance of keeping his players loose, it’s a veteran head coach like Michel Therrien.
On Monday afternoon, the Habs bench boss deviated from the standard practice plan at PNC Arena, electing instead to afford his troops the opportunity to take part in a modified game of “baseball” for the better part of the on-ice session. Four teams with five players each went head-to-head in a competition Therrien has been utilizing for years.
“I played the game in Granby and Laval, too. It’s a game that we use to relax things. I believe strongly in having good atmosphere and good team spirit,” offered Therrien. “Those things need to be maintained, too. We got together as a coaching staff this morning, and thought this would be an ideal time to do it.”
At the midway point of a taxing four-game road swing and less than 24 hours removed from a tough loss at the hands of the Panthers in South Florida, the players themselves enjoyed the amended lesson plan.
“It’s definitely needed right now. We’re all battling. We all want to win. We all want to play the right way. It’s just frustrating that we’re not really finding it. Coming in here, instead of being worried, we’re kind of relaxing while still working hard out there playing that,” noted Max Pacioretty, whose squad that also featured team captain Alex Galchenyuk, P.K. Subban, Alexei Emelin and Andrei Markov, ultimately came out on top. “It was good to get our legs underneath us and have an open mindset heading into tomorrow. I think it was a great time to do that.”
Like Pacioretty, Subban believes the light-hearted workout came at just the right time with two challenging tilts on the horizon over the next four days before returning home.
“It’s all fun. It’s good to be able to play games like that in practice. You don’t see that too much in pro. You could see guys are still competitive. They want to win. It was fun,” mentioned Subban, who attributed his team’s success to good scouting and Galchenyuk’s stellar draft choices.
“I think that especially in sports, whether you’re going through good times or bad times, it’s important to have guys want to be at the rink and be around each other,” added the smooth-skating rearguard. “We’ve got a good group of guys in here, and it’s always fun to do that. Sometimes, you practice things over and over again and it’s just a matter of getting your mind off things and just having fun and coming back with a fresh kind of feeling.”
That’s exactly what the Canadiens will look to do come Tuesday night when they battle the Hurricanes in the Tar Heel State, and it’s no secret how they plan on earning a win to close out 2013 in style.
“Especially on these road trips, you want to salvage as many points as you can. For us, it’s just a matter of playing the game we know we need to play in order to win and to be successful. When we do those things, we’re successful more often than not,” underlined Subban. “We have to continue to bring that work ethic and continue to put pucks deep and be a tough team to play against. We’ve got to bring that tomorrow.”
Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.
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