Fresh face on practice

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:42 AM ET

A sportswriter was once asked if he was going to go out and watch practice.

"Why?" he asked.

"Have they learned to do it different?"

In the case of the Oilers, that's almost the case.

Craig MacTavish didn't invent a slew of new drills yesterday. But he had his team doing stuff they haven't done for so long it seemed all new.

For the first time in two months, MacTavish has three consecutive practices between games to try to be Mr. Fix It.

"When it's broke you have to fix it," he said of his hockey team. "We had a good November in terms of time to practise. But we haven't had any in December or January. We haven't had any time at all."

MacTavish said when the games keep coming with no spacing, a coach is always trying to figure out what's best, rest or practise.

THE ENERGY

"When you're struggling, you need more practice time. But you also have to have the energy. We've been struggling here the last little while. We now have time to practise and get our game turned around."

Despite the fact the Oilers played back-to-back games, MacTavish didn't give them the day off yesterday.

"Fatigue isn't a factor," he said of players coming off the All-Star break. "Three straight days of practice is great for this team right now. Our game is not at a place to get us into the playoffs.

"You're going to see a lot of puck-handling stuff," he said after featuring one-on-one defenceman vs. forward battles in the corners and three on two drills down low with plenty of peer pressure with the rest of the team watching.

NO COMPLAINTS

The players aren't complaining about going back to the drawing board between games.

"Any time you get a block of days where you can get three practices in, it can only help the team," said Ryan Smyth. "Everybody had the all-star break to rest. Now we have the time to practise. Hopefully the combination will work."


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