CHICAGO – In his first full practice as head coach, Randy Cunneyworth made it clear that he plans to utilize every player on his roster.
After three hectic days of media, travel and hockey games, Randy Cunneyworth finally got the opportunity to run his first full practice with the Canadiens Tuesday morning in Chicago. While Cunneyworth has no intention of reinventing the wheel when it comes to the Habs, his philosophies regarding the team were evident over the course of the late morning skate.
“It’s not like we did drills that we haven’t done before, but he really put an emphasis on what we’re looking for from the exercises; the purpose of each drill and what we should be looking to get out of it,” outlined blue-liner Josh Gorges following practice.
|The Canadiens practice in Chicago under Randy Cunneyworth.|
“We obviously want to establish a high-tempo game where we’re on the attack, skating, and using our assets – and if we can do that with four lines, it keeps us fresh,” continued No. 26, who logged a team-high 23:22 of ice time against the Bruins. “If we’re only rolling three lines, we get tired and it’s hard to keep that pace up. We’re a better team when we have all four lines going.”
Proof that Cunneyworth is evidently looking to run a four-line team was in the pudding of Monday night’s game during which every skater in a Canadiens’ uniform clocked over 10 minutes of ice time for only the second time this season.
“He wants us to be a team that’s really hard to play against. Right now we’ve been that sometimes, but not all the time,” expressed Mathieu Darche who clearly responded well to the increase in ice time, throwing a game-high five hits in Monday night’s tilt. “He doesn’t want us to be in-between anymore, but an aggressive team that others find exhausting to play against because we maintain a high-tempo and are always forechecking.
"We know that taking steps isn’t enough at this point and that we need to win, but we know we’re not far away,” added Darche. “Everyone arrived to the rink this morning with a lot of enthusiasm and ready to go."
For his part, Cunneyworth appeared satisfied with his first full practice as head coach as his team prepares to face another one league’s hottest teams Wednesday night in the Chicago Blackhawks.
“Short and hard - that was what we were looking for today in practice. We just had a big game last night. Bodies are sore so we wanted to bring all the players back on board, not over-tax them, but just make sure the tempo was good,” explained Cunneyworth, who also mentioned that Peter Budaj will be his starter against the ‘Hawks Wednesday night.
“Today was a day where we had enough guys that had played a lot of minutes, were banged up and could have taken the day for recovery and everything but they all wanted to get on the ice – and we wanted everyone on,” he finished. “It was a short and tough practice and that just gets you in the right physical and mental frame of mind to take on a team like Chicago – that was the intention today.”
Justin Fragapane is a writer for canadiens.com.
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