Brothers in Arms? The Ottawa Senators were more like Blood Brothers Friday.
A few hours before paying their annual good cheer seasonal visit to CHEO, the Senators took it on the chin from each other – literally – during an intense, spirited 80-minute practice in preparation for Saturday’s matinee against the Los Angeles Kings.
Among the highlights:
- A Chris Neil punch to the head of Cory Conacher and an exchange of slashes between Neil and Conacher, resulting in the breaking of Conacher’s stick and Conacher throwing his stick against the boards in anger.
- A high stick from Colin Greening which caught Bobby Ryan in the lip, sending him to the ice in frustration.
- A slapshot from Erik Karlsson which caught Chris Phillips in the foot, sending him limping off to the dressing room.
- A makeshift scrimmage which was repeatedly stopped by coach Paul MacLean, as he chewed out individual players for making poor decisions.
If NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan was watching, a few players might have joined defenceman Jared Cowen with a suspension for Saturday’s game.
Yet the way MacLean saw it, it was all good.
“You practice like you play,” said MacLean, who hasn’t been satisfied with the intensity of workouts this season. “So if you’re competitive in practice, you’ll be competitive in games.”
Neil, who has had similar run-ins with half a dozen Senators teammates over the years, shrugged his shoulders at the exchange with Conacher, claiming it’s a sign that players are fighting for space.
“We’re fine, whenever the intensity is high, the coach wants you to do it a certain way and we’re trying out there and that’s reality, that’s what happens,” he said. “When we collided at the blueline, he slashed me and I slashed him back. It’s just…instinct. It’s not a big deal. We want everyone battling hard and playing hard in practice because it makes everyone better around them.”
Ryan, who scored his team-leading 15th goal of the season in Thursday’s 2-1 win over Buffalo, was sporting a scar, courtesy of Greening.
“(Greening) got me right in the teeth off the faceoff and cut my lip,” he said. “It was that kind of practice. Make sure you get your bump off the faceoff. I’ve been happier. But it seemed like nothing because right up the ice Conacher and Neil got into it. It was a chippy practice but sometimes you need that. Hopefully we show the same kind of fire (against Los Angeles), like when we got pissed off at each other out there (Friday).”
While players were laughing about it after the workout, Ryan says the edginess can “absolutely” carry over to games.
Clarke MacArthur agrees
“Sometimes, you need a little spark,” he said after practice. “Obviously, you don’t want to lose anyone out there, but it was definitely getting intense. If you do it in the game, I guess you have the right to do it in practice. Neil plays hard in the game and he’s not going to take any (crap) in practice, either. I think we all know that. If the wires touch once in a while, so be it. Nothing happened there. They’re already chatting back there (in the dressing room). It’s something where you get some intensity and it’s good for the team.”