Columbus, OH –
One day after losing a sloppy game to the Chicago Blackhawks, the boys were back on the ice. Head coach Scott Arniel pulled all of the players to a corner of the rink, away from both the fans and the gathered media, to have a quiet chat with them. There was no yelling, yet every pair of eyes were focused on what he was saying. Oh, to be a fly on the glass…
They worked through their drills with an ever increasing intensity. From 1-on-1 and 2-on-1 to power play and penalty kill, the pace was ramped up by the coaches. This culminated one hour and seven minutes into practice in every players favorite (insert sarcasm here) drill, the dreaded “suicides”. From the goal line to blueline and back, to the red line and back, and so forth and so on. Arniel kept barking at them to keep the legs churning. And, so they did.
Noticeable to me, was the absense of the assistant coaches. they would normally take part in sprint drills with the players. Not so, today. They stood by the side boards and watched as skater after skater went by. At this point, there was no smiling nor any joking around. They had the time before their next game on Friday and Scott Arniel put it to good use. This had all of the earmarks of being one of the more intense practices in quite some time.
The club now sits 7 points out of the 8th and final playoff spot. Is it desperation time in their minds? “We should be desperate,” said Antoine Vermette. “There’s not that much time left. The meaning of the game means so much (after a loss) that it should be a big-time motivation for us. We have to get back to being consistant, night in and night out. We need to get back to where our timing and passes are sharper.”
Number 11 in your programs and fast becoming a high-light reel player, Matt Calvert is making the most of his opportunity to play at the NHL level. He gives 100% every shift that he’s on the ice and doesn’t know what the word “quit” means. “I think, for me, it’s game by game. I had to earn my way up here. Obviously, I’m grateful for my chance when I got it. Whenever I take the ice, I have to contribute. And, I know I can offensively. At the same time, try to provide a spark to the guys on the bench.”
He also likes seeing a familiar face in Grant Clitsome playing in Columbus. They both started the season with the AHL Springfield Falcons. “It’s nice to have a guy that you played a few months with (in Springfield). It’s great to have him up here, too. Also, to see that he’s doing as well as he is.
~ Defenseman Rusty Klesla is still out with a “knee injury”. Scott Arniel refused to speculate in regards to Klesla. He did acknowledge that they might call-up a player from Springfield by the weekend.
~ To me, at least, it seems that the players are not playing “relaxed” with the exception of Rick Nash. It’s noticeable that they are gripping their sticks too tight and being somewhat tentative with the puck. That needs to change if they hope to salvage the season.