Jon Cooper and Sidney Crosby compared schedules during the NHL All-Star weekend. The Penguins were right back at it with a game Monday night, whereas the Lightning has two practices before Wednesday’s matchup in Pittsburgh.
The Lightning coach was unsure whether it was an advantage or disadvantage having a game right out of the break. But Cooper figures getting those couple of extra days of practice is very beneficial for his players.
Following Monday morning’s practice, Cooper didn’t seem to be alone in that sentiment.
Defenseman Braydon Coburn was happy about having some time on the ice before competing again on the road.
“It’s nice,” he said. “I’m a big proponent of having a couple of practices for sure.”
The 33-year-old veteran was impressed with the team’s mentality throughout practice. Coburn said most of the guys looked pretty sharp and he has been on teams where that wasn’t the case.
“I think it’s just a testament to the focus the guys have and when it’s time to practice the guys show up and get out there,” Coburn said.
Even though it was the first practice back in a week, Cooper made players work, while still keeping the tone lighter, with a fair amount of five-on-five, full-ice play. He compared it to a mini training camp and a refresher course.
Cooper likes having the longer break with the bye week added to the All-Star Game this year. He compared it to the longer Olympic break of 2014.
“I think the hockey’s better down the stretch,” he said. “There may be a little sloppiness in the first game back, but I think every team in the end will be better off that their guys got that break going into the final part of the season.”
The extended time off gave the players a chance to miss hockey. Cooper liked the energy on the ice Monday morning.
“By the end of this break here everyone’s excited to come back,” forward J.T. Miller predicted before the break. “In the beginning it’s nice to get the break, but by the end of it you’re ready to start playing again.”
Right wing Mathieu Joseph was thankful for some practice time before Wednesday’s game.
“It took me a couple of minutes to get back at it,” Joseph chuckled, “and it’s definitely very helpful.”
Miller is happy with the way the team has set itself up leading into this stretch of the regular season.
“We play a lot of good teams coming up,” he said. “Everybody is pushing for the playoffs and playing for a position, so it’s definitely crunch time in the season and the hardest part of the year. We have to make sure we’re ready for it.
Contact Mari Faiello at email@example.com. Follow @faiello_mari.