sunny.png
Thursday May 6th, 2021 8:21AM

NHL training camps open with sense of urgency

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

Peter Laviolette pulled the mask away from his face to bark out instructions while pointing every which way with his stick, then put the mask back on and skated around to show his new players what to do.

It was the first day of training camp for Laviolette and the Washington Capitals and most of the NHL. With the regular season starting next week, there's no time to waste. Camps are now open for the league's 31 teams and they will last just 10 days.

There are no exhibition games to tune up before the pucks drop for real.

"There’s so many things that you want to touch on, and the time is limited," Laviolette said after the first on-ice session Monday. “It’s almost like fear when you get home that maybe you didn’t get everything done or you didn’t get in what you were supposed to get done."

While the seven teams that didn't make the playoffs got a few days' head start, everyone will be in the same grind when the season begins Jan. 13. After completing last season in quarantined bubbles, hockey will open the season with the coronavirus pandemic still raging for a 56-game regular season scheduled to run until May 8.

“You get a fresh start,” said Jeff Skinner of the Buffalo Sabres, who haven't played a game since March. “When you get to take a lot of time off, it sort of builds that anticipation to when you can get back, and now we’re here and it’s an exciting time.”

It's also different. Coaches couldn't meet with players in person until camp, there are health and safety protocols to follow and there is daily COVID-19 testing.

Columbus Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella said he'd emphasize a major point to players about how to approach training and playing this season: “There is no complaining about anything."

That includes the length of camp, which is even shorter than eight years ago when a lockout cut the season to 48 games. Few seem worried about no preseason games.

“Most players would argue that camps are a little bit long anyway," Winnipeg Jets captain Blake Wheeler said. “It’ll be nice to get right to it, get up to game speed as fast as we can and then hit the ice for games that matter.”

In a reminder that the pandemic is still making an impact on the sport, three NHL teams have to find new places for top minor leaguers to play. The American Hockey League announced that three teams will opt out of this season, forcing St. Louis to shuffle prospects to Utica and leaving Nashville and Florida to figure out a Plan B.

Rather than beginning camp with a hectic scramble among several groups at their practice facility, Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins worked inside spacious PPG Paints Arena. Things were so quiet that coach Mike Sullivan’s instructions could be heard clearly all the way up in the rafters, even though he never raised his voice.

“Almost everything feels different, to be honest with you, as far as the surroundings and wearing masks and socially distancing,” Crosby said. “But the excitement and the anticipation feels the same with getting ready to play.”

When the Penguins host Philadelphia on opening night, they won't have forward Kasperi Kapanen, one of a few players dealing with immigration issues that caused them to miss the start of camp. Buffalo's Linus Ullmark and fellow goaltender Anton Khudobin of Dallas were among those not available yet.

In Tampa Bay, coach Jon Cooper ran a different practice Monday for his reigning Stanley Cup champion Lightning.

"There was a lot more teaching," Cooper said. “There’s so much hype that goes into the first day, I think guys usually are just so excited to be out there and they’re all screaming around, so we kind of designed a practice to take care of that. But because it’s such a short turnaround, we had to do a little bit more systems stuff than we normally would do.”

Across Florida, the Panthers set up equipment outside to take advantage of the warm climate. Elsewhere, stars like Winnipeg's Patrik Laine and Columbus' Pierre-Luc Dubois took the ice after an offseason of questions about whether they would still be with their teams.

“I'm here, aren't I?” Laine said. "That’s the only thing I’m worried about right now."

A few absences stood out, like captain Jonathan Toews in Chicago, top-line center Mika Zibanejad with the New York Rangers and newest Capitals defenseman Zdeno Chara. Laviolette said Chara will join the team soon after quarantine, but information on most players is limited for now — another layer of secrecy to start a new season.

“I’ve been told from our team and from the league, when a player is not on the ice during training camp, we’re supposed to say he’s not available today,” Philadelphia coach Alain Vigneault said. "I think once the season starts, which is only a few days away, then we’ll be allowed to be a little more specific."

___

AP Hockey Writer John Wawrow and Sports Writers Mitch Stacy, Tim Reynolds, Dan Gelston, Will Graves, Teresa M. Walker, Jay Cohen and Pat Graham contributed to this report.

___

More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP Sports, AP Online Hockey
© Copyright 2021 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
NHL training camps open with sense of urgency
Every NHL team has opened training camp with the season set to begin next week
5:47PM ( 8 minutes ago )
Vaccination drive enters new phase in US and Britain
The vaccination drive against the coronavirus is entering a new phase
5:46PM ( 10 minutes ago )
DC mayor calls in National Guard ahead of pro-Trump protests
Bracing for possible violence, the nation’s capital has mobilized the National Guard ahead of planned protests by President Donald Trump’s supporters as Congress votes Wednesday on affirming Joe Biden’s election victory
5:43PM ( 13 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Jaguars fire Marrone; owner Khan plans to be more involved
The Jacksonville Jaguars fired coach Doug Marrone a little more than 12 hours after ending the season with a 15th consecutive loss
3:53PM ( 2 hours ago )
Court upholds life sentence for Iowa coach who abused teens
A federal appeals court has upheld a life prison sentence for an influential Iowa youth basketball coach who used his position to sexually exploit more than 400 boys over 20 years
2:22PM ( 3 hours ago )
Jaguars fire Marrone, owner Khan plans to be more involved
The Jacksonville Jaguars fired coach Doug Marrone a little more than 12 hours after ending the season with a 15th consecutive loss
1:58PM ( 3 hours ago )
AP Sports
AP Online Hockey
Vaccination drive enters new phase in US and Britain
The vaccination drive against the coronavirus is entering a new phase
5:46PM ( 10 minutes ago )
DC mayor calls in National Guard ahead of pro-Trump protests
Bracing for possible violence, the nation’s capital has mobilized the National Guard ahead of planned protests by President Donald Trump’s supporters as Congress votes Wednesday on affirming Joe Biden’s election victory
5:43PM ( 13 minutes ago )
Study: Warming already baked in will blow past climate goals
A new study says the amount of global warming already baked into the air because of past carbon pollution is enough to blow past internationally agreed upon climate limits
5:17PM ( 38 minutes ago )
Biden largely mum on Trump's effort to reverse election
President-elect Joe Biden is mostly steering clear of the controversy engulfing President Donald Trump’s final days in office, aiming to project the different approach to governing Americans can expect when he moves into the White House
5:15PM ( 40 minutes ago )
Chargers fire head coach Anthony Lynn after 4 seasons
The Los Angeles Chargers have fired coach Anthony Lynn less than two seasons after he led the franchise to the AFC divisional round
5:13PM ( 42 minutes ago )