TORONTO - With a Professional Women's Hockey League playoff spot secured, Toronto remains focused on improvement over its final three regular-season games.

Toronto returned from the international break with a loss against Boston on Thursday and a win against Montreal at Bell Centre on Saturday that clinched its post-season berth.

Tuesday was the first time most of the team got to practice together, with some players having rest and recovery days following the women's world championship.

“It's not like we're just going to throw the towel in for the rest of the (regular) season,” forward Sarah Nurse said post-practice. “I think for us it's about tweaking little things, making sure that we know what makes us successful, focusing on the habits and details that make us successful.

“Today was our first practice together as a team in over a month and so being able to build that chemistry back up (is important) so that when we get into the playoffs it's pretty seamless.”

Toronto, which sits atop the league standings and is the only team to have clinched a post-season berth so far, only has one game this week - playing last-place New York on Sunday. That leaves the team ample time to not just get a full week of practice, but also rest.

“It's huge,” Nurse said. “From a rest and recovery standpoint, first and foremost, to be able to not have to travel and not have to play games, it's pretty big. Obviously that's very tough on the body.

“Also, going back to chemistry … we really haven't had practice, so we haven't been able to work on any special teams. Penalty kill and power play in the playoffs become so important and so critical, so to be able to work on that throughout this week is very important.”

Nurse, who scored twice including the overtime winner against Montreal, was one of seven players that played for Canada at the world championship during the international break. Canada, led by Toronto head coach Troy Ryan, earned gold with a 6-5 overtime win over the archrival United States on April 14 in Utica, N.Y.

The victory served as a reminder of what Toronto is chasing, said team captain and Canada forward Blayre Turnbull.

“You come back and you're on a bit of a high and you want to chase that feeling again,” Turnbull said. “It was a nice reminder for us of how special it is to win and it's a feeling that you want this Toronto team to experience.”

However, it's not something that's discussed much among the team.

“We've talked about it, I guess a little bit at the start of the year,” Turnbull said. “We haven't really touched on it much since we've been back. I think it's just one of those things that, you don't really need to discuss it too much in a team sport.

“The expectation is that everyone wants to win and everybody loves the feeling of winning a championship.”

Ryan said while the focus remains on the playoffs, there are little things in mind to help keep the team motivated, including winning the season series against each team in the league.

Toronto swept five games against Montreal and is up against every other team except Ottawa, which they will meet in the regular-season finale at home on May 5.

“'There is also some things on the line, little pride things,” Ryan said. “I think we're tied right now for goals for in the league (54 with Ottawa), I think we're two goals back in goals against (to Minnesota) in the league.

“So there are little things that can keep you on track and give you little things that motivate you but you only would do any of that to keep you focused for playoffs. That's the whole goal right now.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 23, 2024.