It’s been a long week. After eliminating the Milwaukee Admirals on Thursday, the Toronto Marlies have been eager to get back to competitive hockey again. Don’t believe me? Just ask them.
“Yeah I think it’s time to play hockey.” said coach Steve Spott. “I think that looking at our practice today; the guys are in a frame of mind where they want to start playing some games. There’s been a lot of preparation, a lot of meetings, but it’s time to get to Chicago.”
Of course, there’s also a gift to go with the curse of long wait times, as TJ Brennan can attest to. “It’s good to have time off, to get ready for the next opponent. It’s a benefit of playing well in the first round. We’re trying to make the best use of our time.” backing him up on the point was team captain Trevor Smith. “We had a couple of days to work on some things,
with some new bodies in the lineup. It’s always good to go over some plays, and
work the puck around to know where they’re going to be.”
As mentioned by Smith, the Marlies are adding Spencer Abbott and Peter Holland back into the lineup. Both missed the end of the season and the entire first round due to injuries, but despite the fact that they haven’t lost a playoff game, the team is eager to have them back. “It’s very simple; they’re probably our two most skilled players.” said Spott. “You look at the Jonathan Toews’, the Datsyuks, the Zetterbergs, the Crosbys.. we need our best players to be our hardest workers.”
Brennan in particularly benefits from this. He’s spent most of the season with Abbott sharing the point with him during the powerplay, something the team brought back in today’s practice. “It’s definitely nice to have him and Holly back there. Two really skilled guys, who are hopefully going to be big threats. It’s nice, me and Abbott have a good connection this year, and to have him back is huge… hopefully he’s going to help us down the stretch here.”
The Eddie Shore award winner continued to heap praise on his teammate. “He connects with everyone. He’s a special player out there. I just try to read off of him and go from there. He’s kind of in his own world out there, and sees things that others don’t. I think he just knows how I am, and knows where I’ll be. He’s just a special player. “
He couldn’t resist the opportunity to throw in a friendly jab to even things out. “But he’s kinda like a bad guy, off the ice he just keeps to himself and none of the guys really like him either.”
Of course, this means that Holland and Abbott are taking away the roster spots of two players, but as Brennan pointed out, this isn’t a selfish group. “Guys are very understanding and just want what’s best for the team. It’s a good mindset to have around here, and having guys coming back from injuries is a good thing..”
For Spott, he feels that while Chicago is going to be a tough challenge, the team knows what they’re up against.
“We know what they’re going to do. They’re extremely quick,
they have a veteran group of guys. For us, it’s going to be making sure we don’t
give up odd man rushes. If we do, this series is going to be over very quickly.
We have to play with structure, we have to play a five man game, and we have to
stay out of the penalty box. If we do that, than we can compete with these
guys.” for him, it’s going to be about the team continuing to play like themselves. “We know the way they like to play, they’re willing to take
chances, they are willing to turn the game into a track meet, and that’s not
the game we’d like to play.”
Defenceman Andrew MacWilliam, who returned to the lineup in Game 3 after missing time with a concussion, outlined what the back end will need to do. “We’re going to have to be on our game. They have a lot of
good forwards over there, so we’re going to have to manage our gaps
accordingly, and get some help from our forwards. We’ve got a tough task ahead
of us, but I think we’re ready.”
Beyond that, it’s about keeping the mood light, something that Smith gives credit to the team’s younger talent for doing. “Yeah, I think it’s a great mix. The young guys are making
the older guys feel younger. We have some fun on the road trips, and it’s a lot
of fun to be around the guys, especially at this time of year.”
Today’s lines at practice were as follows:
Spencer Abbott – Peter Holland – Carter Ashton
Josh Leivo – Greg McKegg – Sam Carrick
Brandon Kozun – Trevor Smith – Jerry D’Amigo
David Broll – Jerred Smithson – Kenny Ryan / Jamie Devane
Extras (projected scratches). Frazer McLaren, Brad Ross, Tyler Biggs, Brad Staubitz
Andrew MacWilliam – Korbinian Holzer
Stuart Percy – Petter Granberg
TJ Brennan – Kevin Marshall
Extras (projected scratches): Dylan Yeo, Eric Knodel
The junior crew had their own pre-practice, as usual. Christopher Gibson has returned to the team after the conclusion of Orlando’s season in the ECHL, but has been placed with the rookies.
The Marlies will head to Chicago in the morning, en route to the series opener on Friday. Check back here for my series preview tomorrow.