On Monday, Ottawa Senators coach Paul MacLean barked at his team through perhaps their hardest practice of the season, pushing them to do more and to do it faster.
Meanwhile, Buffalo Sabres coach Lindy Ruff was pulling back, foregoing another on-ice session in favour of meetings and video sessions.
The contrast in how the teams approached Tuesday's meeting offered an intriguing look at one of the key questions NHL coaches are facing during the abbreviated and compacted NHL season: When do you push and when do you take a step back?
You can hardly blame MacLean for his approach. It was about time his team woke up and smelled the possibility of a prolonged slump. They went into Tuesday's game on the heels of a 1-0 snoozefest loss to the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday, having scored only seven goals in their previous five games. With all due respect to Al Montoya and Dan Ellis, who have posted shutouts against the Senators during that stretch, they're NHL backups for a reason.
At the same time, Ruff's approach also made sense. The Sabres, who went into Tuesday's game with the NHL's worst goals-against average (46 goals in 13 games), have been atrocious defensively, but it's unlikely anything significant could have been accomplished with a practice following games on Saturday and Sunday.
"With us playing four (games) in six (days), we felt the best thing to do was to not get them on the ice," Ruff said Tuesday morning. "I thought it was very productive. We met with our leadership group first. We went through some areas where the commitment needs to be better."
Jason Pominville, who has been a thorn in the Senators' side seemingly forever, insists that a day of watching movies - albeit nightmare videos of weak defensive performances - was the smart approach because the "coaches understand how gruelling the schedule is." The Sabres have now played 14 games in 24 days.
On top of that, Ruff held yet another one-on-one meeting with struggling 6-foot-8, 220-pound defenceman Tyler Myers. In his first 11 games, Myers had one goal, no assists and owned a plus/minus figure of minus-nine. After making him a healthy scratch for the previous two games, Ruff put his big guy back in the lineup against the Senators, hoping his time watching from above returned him to his old form.
"It's an easy game from upstairs," said Ruff. "I've had a couple of really good meetings with him, trying to get his head in the right place."
It was funny that Ruff chose to use those words. Only minutes earlier, Myers said the game "is all mental" and "it's really amazing how much of the game is upstairs."
Again, can all of the meetings really help plug all the holes on the Sabres' defence and turn around a season that is on the verge of already being lost?
What is known is that the schedule becomes more friendly now, with the pace of games slowing down. They play on back-to-back nights only once in the next month.
The Senators, on the other hand, are headed down a difficult road. Starting with Toronto on Saturday, they play three games in four days, four games in six days, five games in seven days and six games in nine days. There will be limited time for the practice-makes-perfect approach.
AS THE GOALIES TURN
One by one, No. 1 NHL goaltenders continue to fall to injury. Toronto's James Reimer, Calgary's Miikka Kiprusoff are out with knee injuries and Jaroslav Halak has a groin problem. In Minnesota, Josh Harding is suffering symptoms of his multiple sclerosis - an unpredictable disease - prompting the Wild to recall Darcy Kuemper from Houston of the American Hockey League.
In the midst of all of that, is there room for Senators GM Bryan Murray to trade backup goaltender Ben Bishop in exchange for a scoring centre? The rumour mill is picking up steam. NBC analyst Pierre McGuire has floated the name of Matt Cullen, the former Senator now playing for the Minnesota Wild. Cullen, 36, has scored one goal and four assists in five games. Le Droit's Marc Brassard has tossed out the possibility of Gatineau native Derick Brassard (no relation) coming back home. Brassard, 25, has two goals and five assists in seven games. The Senators had an interest in Brassard before trading for Kyle Turris last season.
While Calgary plucked former Detroit Red Wings goaltender Joey MacDonald off waivers Tuesday, Murray and Flames general manager Jay Feaster did exchange trade talk earlier in the season.
For those wondering, Robin Lehner has a 17-8-2 record with a 1.87 goals-against average and .945 save percentage for the Binghamton Senators.
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