Detroit — As an NHL season goes rolling along there’s always the tricky question of how much practice does a team balance with the 82 games in a regular-season schedule.
Every team needs to practice. That’s not breaking any news. Timing, chemistry, conditioning, planning — those are things associated with a typical practice, and a team needs it to improve.
But there’s a delicate line as to how much, and how vigorous the practice should be, especially with games almost every other night at this point of the schedule, and road games all over North America.
The Red Wings, with as many young players as they have, right now need and want the practice. No matter how tiring or taxing.
The Wings’ less-than-pretty victory Tuesday over Winnipeg might have been the result of a relatively long and difficult practice the day before.
Coach Derek Lalonde was pleased with defeating a quality important, but was noticeably irked by the defensive mistakes. Lalonde also felt the Wings looked tired. But Lalonde feels certain practices, especially for a young team, are necessary.
“We monitor their heart rates and loads for the week; it’s actually quite impressive,” Lalonde said. “We manage it the best we can. There’s also that balance of how important practice is, and maybe where we are at as a team, that Monday practice where we went pretty long might be two steps forward to maybe a step back in the game for where we’re at.
“Where we’re at as an organization, at times you really have to value a practice.”
This entire recent stretch was a physical and mental test for the Wings.
The Wings had a back-to-back set of games Friday and Saturday, that Saturday game being a road game in Toronto. The Wings set foot in their Toronto hotel rooms at 2:30 a.m. after getting slowed at customs, then didn’t arrive into Detroit the following morning until approximately 2:30 a.m. as customs issues against delayed the team’s traveling party.
It’s nothing new, especially for the NHL, but it can be grueling. And teams need to rest.
“Everybody goes through it,” Lalonde said. “There are a lot of reasons for us not performing great (Tuesday), and as a coach you kind of look at everything. But the bottom line is we didn’t execute.”
Though Thursday’s morning skate was an optional as to whether anyone wanted to skate, every Wing still attends to get ready for game time.
“Everybody comes and we get focused,” Lalonde said. “Our meeting is vitally important. We start looking at our opponent. Where this team is, the youth of it, sometimes we like those touches (on ice work) because there’s a development to it.
“You actually want them (younger players to do morning skates), maybe it’s old-school, but you want those guys to get in the habit of touches and work ethic. But of course, sometimes, and Mo (Seider) is one of those guys, a perfect example, we’ve been asking a lot of him, we expected 30-35 minutes out of him (during Wednesday’s practice) and he goes grabs the skating coach for 15 (minutes) more.
“There’s a balance in there somewhere. But you want to push those young guys out of their comfort level a little bit.”
Defenseman Simon Edvinsson, the Wings 2021 first-round pick (sixth overall), is progressing in Grand Rapids, and ultimately showing the Wings’ decision to send him for more pro seasoning was the correct call.
Edvinsson, 19, has played 26 games in Grand Rapids with one goal and 11 assists and a minus-three rating, with 30 penalty minutes.
Lalonde said general manager Steve Yzerman has watched a lot of Edvinsson during the season, while Lalonde is in regular conversation with Griffins coach Ben Simon.
“Good (reports),” Lalonde said. “He battled through some illness early on, it probably set him back a little bit, but it’s just learning how to be a pro, consistently, every day.”
Lalonde feels there’s a natural development arc for an young player, but especially a young defenseman.
“You saw him in camp, he had a couple of games in the preseason he looked like he was ready to play every day in the NHL, and the next night it looks like he was nowhere near ready to play. As a young defenseman, I personally think it’s a lot harder as a defenseman than forward in that development.
“It’s tough to give you an exact (report) with where he’s at, but there has been some positive reviews for sure.”