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Sullivan Makes Point With Intense Practice

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The Pittsburgh Penguins went through a quiet, non-stop, hour-long practice Monday at PPG Paints Arena. The biggest voices came from the coaches. Many players remained on the ice for an extra half-hour or longer.

That might be expected of a team that has a five-day gap between games and had a full day off Sunday. But the workmanlike atmosphere also had a lot to do with what happened in the first two games of the season. The Penguins are 1-1 and have allowed 11 goals.

“High-intensity practice today,” winger Jake Guentzel said. “Hopefully, that will carry into this weekend and after that.”

The Penguins had an off-ice workout scheduled for Tuesday and another practice Wednesday before the Vegas Golden Knights come to town Thursday. However, after Monday’s practice, the club decided it will hold a practice Tuesday after all. More time to work on things, apparently.

Coach Mike Sullivan might have gotten his players’ attention after Saturday’s 5-1 loss to Montreal when he said they were trying too hard to score and neglecting other aspects.

If not, perhaps they got his message Monday, which began with a video session that probably required a strong stomach and no popcorn.

“We tried to show the team our lack of attention to detail and lack of urgency or commitment to play the game the right way, and how that impacts our ability to have success,” Sullivan said.

Then it was onto the ice. This was not an old-fashioned bag skate that wore players down physically, but it was designed to make a point.

“Today we worked on a couple of aspects of our game,” Sullivan said. “Part of it was our compete level, but there were more details out there associated with it. We feel strongly that we’ve got to pay more attention to detail, and we have to play with a more competitive spirit if we’re going to have success.”

Notice the theme?

“We put some hard work in today, working away from the puck and trying to get better,” defenseman Justin Schultz said.

And taking Sullivan’s criticism to heart.

“What we have to take from that is, if we play the right way and we play on the right side of the puck, we play as a unit of five and we defend well, we’ll still create offense,” center Derick Brassard said. “We can’t play run-and-gun and stuff like that.”

Perhaps that’s a carryover from a preseason in which the Penguins displayed and talked about having overflowing energy and a hunger to chase their third Stanley Cup in four years.

It might be a matter of channeling that differently.

“We’ve just got to get back in the mindset that the harder we play defense, the better we defend, the more time we’re going to spend in the offensive zone,” winger Bryan Rust said. “The more we work on that, we’ll see the correlation.”

And work on it, they did.

“It’s just a reality check after two games,” Brassard said of the long, detailed practice. “We have a mature group. We’ll figure it out.”

 

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Shelly is the newest columnist and reporter for Pittsburgh Hockey Now. She was a Penguins beat writer for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and remains a contributor to The Hockey News. Catch her on Twitter @_shellyanderson

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