Habs pushed hard at practice trying in attempt to break skid Staff

3/27/2011 3:47:50 PM

If the message wasn't clear yet for the Habs, head coach Jacques Martin sent another reminder with a hard skating practice on Sunday.

It started with a four minute warm-up skate; the team moving on to six minutes of wind sprints. That was followed by a two-on-none attack drill where the offensive players needed to turn hard up ice to back check, with no chance at catching another offensive pair skating the other way.

"It's been a little while since I've done that. But the message is clear and we know where we are and we understand our situation," said defenceman Brent Sopel. "It's not fun for anybody in this city, it's not fun for the guys in this room."

With the playoffs just six games away, the Canadiens have hit an offensive wall. Their 2-0 loss to the Capitals on Saturday night was the team's third straight shutout defeat - a dubious mark that hasn't been seen by these fans since 1949. The fans let the team know as well, serenading them with boos as they left the Bell Centre ice.

The players themselves weren't surprised that they were taken to task at practice.

"When you play in this league long enough, you get a certain expectation as far as what practice might bring the next day. You're not always right, but you can usually get a pretty good feel off things," said forward Mike Cammalleri, who has netted just 16 goals this season.

"I think everybody has been there no matter level you've been at," said defenceman PK Subban. "Sometimes the coach just feels that's what needed at practice and that's what's needed for the team. Our job is not to analyze what we do in practice. Our job is to come out and work as hard as we can at what we're doing.

"He said it pretty clearly: we've been doing a lot of talking lately, our team, within our team and saying what we need to do but we've got to go out and do it. The past three games have been a wakeup call for us. We have to execute. (There are) only a couple games left. If we want to make the playoffs, if we want to be playing deep into the summer, we've got to start competing."

This slide has dropped the Habs down the conference ladder into a tie with the Rangers in points for sixth, and they are just two points ahead of the eighth-place Sabres. The Canadiens will host the Thrashers on Tuesday to try and break the skid.

Sopel said that there's still time to turn things around before the postseason rolls around.

"At the end of the day we all want to win, we all want to succeed. We don't want to get off the ice and have our fans booing us. That's not what we want. We don't feel good about the position we're in right now. But we have to take a deep breath. We've got six games left, we're in a good situation. We play Tuesday and that's the good thing about hockey - it's not like football (where) you have a week in between," he said. "We had a good practice today, take a deep breath, get away from things tomorrow and get ready to work on Tuesday."