There are days for lighthearted practices, when players joke and often fool around on the ice. This morning's wasn't one of them. Not even close.
With the specter of a season-long six-game losing streak weighing on the team, Coach Bruce Boudreau conducted an approximately hour and a half practice that touched on all aspects of the game, most notably forechecking and attention to defensive responsibility and accountability.
"Just getting back to basics, paying more attention to detail," defenseman Tom Poti said. "Trying to defend against some of the things other teams might do against us. We were working on that a little bit today, and like I said, just getting down to basics, trying to be sharp for tomorrow night" against Anaheim.
Last week, because of a compressed schedule, the Capitals were able to practice just once. This week, however, two more practices are scheduled.
Missing from practice today were center Marcus Johansson and left wing Alexander Semin, both out because of illnesses suspected to be linked to a bug that has been going around the team.
Andrew Boyd Gordon is out one to two weeks because of a lower body injury. Gordon has missed time previously with a sore knee. Defenseman Jeff Schultz, meantime, continues to heal from a broken thumb that's expected to keep him out four to six weeks.
Defenseman Mike Green participated fully in practice, and he said he felt much better today after missing Sunday's 7-0 loss to the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.
"It was frustrating," Green said. "Obviously I want to be out there. Especially at a time like this, I think it's important that we go through this as a group, and we come out of it stronger. As bad as things are, they can only get better now. It's frustrating to watch those games."
The practice time gives Green and the rest of the defense a chance to work more together during a season in which the club's ideal blue line combinations have been a work in progress largely because of injury. Poti and Green have missed games this season, and with Schultz out until next year, the Capitals have lacked continuity on defense.
Washington also is trying to get defenseman Scott Hannan, recently acquired from Colorado in exchange for forward Tomas Fleischmann, comfortable with the rotation.
"When you don't practice a lot, it's amazing how quick things fall, and that was the case I think," Boudreau said. "You've heard me talk a lot of times that we need a good practice. This is a great week. We have two practices, tomorrow and Friday. Hopefully with this one we'll get on track to beat these guys."