Detroit Red Wings’ Derek Lalonde likes to end practices a certain way. Here’s why

Detroit Free Press

The drill was new to Lucas Raymond, but it was high energy and a nice way to break up the monotony of a long exhibition season.

The Detroit Red Wings face their sixth preseason game Wednesday at the Washington Capitals, with a home-and-home against the Toronto Maple Leafs still on the horizon this weekend. It was, therefore, a welcome distraction to end Tuesday’s practice with both nets in the same zone and facing the same way, rather than face one another.

“That was new for me,” Raymond said. “It was pretty fun, though. It was a good pace all practice, and a fun way to end it.”

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Groups of three players aside competed against one another. The nets were minded by Ville Husso and Alex Nedeljkovic, both of whom had a good laugh afterwards about the unusual placement of the nets.

“You have to be really aware of what’s going on around you,” Nedeljkovic said. “It’s a tricky one if you’re in the high net.

“It’s good for competitiveness. Nobody wants to lose. Newsy’s bag skates have been pretty tough if you lose. It’s great. It’s been a good camp so far, all around.”

With the season opener still a ways away Oct. 14, adding something lighthearted to practice delighted players.

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“I’ve done it many times in minor hockey,” Dylan Larkin said. “It’s a fun drill. You can score in any net. I haven’t done it in a long time but it was fun. Defensively, you have to stay on your guy. Offensively, you try to get open, create space, find guys if someone tries to double-team you. It’s got a good purpose.”

New head coach Derek Lalonde has had the Wings play a “small game” — i.e., both nets in the same zone, but placed against side boards facing one another — at the end of several practices, but wanted to change it up.

“We call it the layers’ game,” Lalonde said. “We wanted some competition out of it and as you saw with the excitement of the guys, succeeded.”

Lalonde has referred to the Wings’ eight-game preseason slate as “excessive,” and it’s why there haven’t been many cuts, yet — the Wings need the bodies. Based on what Lalonde has said, it’s likely to be a more AHL-heavy squad that plays in Washington and Toronto, while Friday’s home game will look more like the NHL-heavy squad that played to a 3-2 loss Tuesday against the Penguins.

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“As a coach I don’t think you’re ever completely where you want to be, but for the most part, we’re seeing some good things,” Lalonde said. “I told the guys I have to check myself sometimes — I leave games and I’m usually optimistic about the way we played. Even in Tampa, I would need Jon Cooper or Jeff Halpern to set me straight at times.

“After evaluating again this morning, it looked pretty good. There were some positives. I stress to the guys, process over outcome, and I need to stick to it as a coach, too. (Tuesday) was a perfect example. Were we great? No. Were we good, did we improve in some things, is that a game I think we win more times than not? Yes. And that’s what I mean by process over outcome. I think we’ve taken some good steps.”

Contact Helene St. James at hstjames@freepress.com. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames. Read more on the Detroit Red Wings and sign up for our Red Wings newsletter. Her latest book, On the Clock: Behind the Scenes with the Detroit Red Wings at the NHL Draft is available from  Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail.

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