John Tortorella running less intense camp
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GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- To everyone's surprise, this year's opening of Camp Tortorella didn't feature the usual grueling conditioning drills, timed by stopwatches. There actually was a scrimmage.
With only six days of camp before the puck drops on a 48-game season Saturday in Boston, coach John Tortorella has revised his plans.
"I have to keep an open mind or we'll do it the wrong way," he said. "We don't want to injure them. I'm relying on the players, our leadership group, to tell me how they feel day to day. It's a different dynamic. If there's things I can't get done on the ice, we'll get it done . . . watching tape."
But there was a fast pace and instruction.
"He's not going to let you miss a beat out there," defenseman Ryan McDonagh said. "Any kind of correction, Coach is going to let you know about it right away."
The new democracy, although that might be an odd phrase for the driven coach who likes to have players "under my thumb," apparently will carry over to the season. Tortorella has "no blueprint" for the best approach behind the bench right now.
In the lockout-shortened 48-game season of 1994-95, Tortorella was an assistant coach in Buffalo when the Sabres lost in the first round to the Flyers. Injuries limited stars Dale Hawerchuk to 23 games and Pat LaFontaine to 22.
"I thought about that for a number of weeks," Tortorella said, and he reviewed this year's schedule three or four times. "I just need to see what the team looks like when we start. To me, there's no blueprint. The most important thing is to have the pulse of the team. Recovery is huge . . . It's not about finding practice time, it's about finding recovery time."
Except for Chris Kreider, there are no youngsters vying for spots in camp, but that could change during the season.
"I have interest in a couple kids in Hartford,'' Tortorella said. "They'll stay down, but it's not veterans or rookies, I'm really trying to go in wide open and make the right decisions."
Mental readiness isn't an issue, he said, noting that Henrik Lundqvist and Martin Biron practiced for 20 minutes with goaltending coach Benoit Allaire early and "were itching" to stay on for the full practice. The key, Tortorella said, is for players "not to get too amped up and then fade a bit . . . Coaches have to control themselves as we try to not have a peak-and-valley situation."
After practice, Lundqvist said he welcomes getting back to a routine.
"It's almost like your life slowly starts coming back to you," he said. "You start to feel the adrenaline; we've practiced, but not with this intensity. I miss everything about it; I miss being on the road; it's a part of my life that's been missing. I use that as motivation and inspiration almost every day."