Kukla's Korner Hockey
by Alanah McGinley on 05/15/08 at 02:08 PM ET
Getting some answers today from Pittsburgh Penguins’ coach Michel Therrien.
Q. Can you give us an update on Gary Roberts’ status?
COACH THERRIEN: He’s still sick. He’s got pneumonia. It’s a mild case, so he’s listed day‑to‑day. He’s not going to play tonight.
Q. Is it something you expect him back later in the playoffs?
COACH THERRIEN: Yes, yes, hopefully. He’s on medication right now, and we’ll go from there.
Q. Can you talk about the play of Ryan Malone this season? Really sort of a breakout year for him, certainly under your watch.
COACH THERRIEN: Yes, Ryan, you know, he became a leader. He learned through adversity the last three years. He means well. He’s going to stick up for his teammate. He’s an Assistant Captain to our club, and it’s fun to see him get that responsibility, especially to a guy like him grow up with the Penguins, because his dad was part of this organization for a long time.
He’s doing a fantastic job. He’s got a huge role as we all know in our club. He’s playing with power plays, he’s playing with Malkin’s top two lines, he’s playing on the penalty killing, so he’s got no choice but to have a good game. Because if he’s having a bad game, it’s going to be tough for us to win. He’s one of those guys that’s got big‑time minutes. He knows his role, and it’s a challenge for him, and he’s doing a great job.
Q. What’s been the toughest challenge for you guys during this run? You’ve only lost one game. There hasn’t been a whole lot of adversity based off results?
COACH THERRIEN: We take one game at a time. It’s like our main focus is on tonight. It’s not on the next game. It’s not the game before. We focus on our game tonight. If you would have asked me before the series, the playoffs start, we would have been 11‑1, I would have said wow. Because we don’t look at the big picture right now, we’re focusing on one game at a time.
This is one of the reasons why the emotion, it’s there, but they’re not too high, they’re not too low. They’re having a lot of fun, obviously, to be together on the ice. They’re having a lot of fun in practice like this morning, but they’re still working, they’re still focusing.
And they learned through the course of the season that the number one thing to have fun, first of all, your work ethic has to be there. And you’ve got to bring that to practice so you’ll be able to bring that to the game. You can’t have fun if you’re not working and if you’re not focusing, because things don’t go your way. So they learned that through the course of the season.
This morning I thought they were upbeat, we’re an upbeat group. I like our focus, and I’m expecting that we’re going to play another solid game tonight.
Q. Would you mind just commenting on Jordan Staal and having him back with this team after the tough time he’s gone through?
COACH THERRIEN: It’s never easy to lose a member of your family. He went yesterday, got back last night. We’re glad that he’s back with our club. I asked him on the ice this morning how things were, and he said it was nice that he got a chance to be there. In the meantime, you know, he’s got something pretty special going on with his club, so I’m sure that he wants to be part of it. He doesn’t want to miss anything. But it’s up to everyone on how to deal with it, and he’s got respect for that.
Q. Back to Ryan Malone for a second. You talk about all the responsibilities that he has, and he has no choice but to have a good game. When you first saw him when he was a younger player and you were just coming to the Penguins, what did you see in him? Did you see a guy that was going to be this important to you at that time?
COACH THERRIEN: The first time I saw Ryan Malone, I saw his potential. And he’s got tons of potential, but I don’t think he realized it. There were some tough love with him at the beginning, because I realized the potential that he’s got.
Right now he’s ‑‑ all the credit goes to him, because you know what, he’s focusing a lot more than he was. He’s playing a tough game. He’s disciplined on and off the ice and he understands what it takes to be a true professional, and that’s why this is what I respect about Ryan right now.
We went through some tough times together, but in the meantime, I enjoy the development that guy had over the last few years.
Q. Kris Letang plays with a lot of poise for such a young player. Could you comment about his play maybe from training camp to here?
COACH THERRIEN: We know that Letang has a lot of potential. We saw last year at training camp, and even he started the year with us. Want to give him the experience what it takes to play in the NHL. We decided to send him down to finish his Junior career and go through some experience. He was the Captain of Team Canada when they won the World Championship.
Probably put himself a little too much pressure at our training camp this year to make the team. He was not playing at the level that we were expecting. And the decision that you have to take with young players, we figure that it’s easier for young guys at 20 years old or 21 years old to start in the American League. And if he’s got success, things are going well for him to bring him up, to call him up. And then start him in the National Hockey League, and after that if you see things are not going his way and the ice time is not quite there, to send him down. That was the decision.
We decided to send him down. He went there. Went through a little adversity in the beginning of the year. But right now since he’s back up, he’s only 20 years old. It’s demanding for defensemen to play in the NHL at 20 years old, and he’s playing his second year of the power play, regular shift. And there were times this year he was killing penalties, and he’s doing a great job.
He’s learning quick. He’s got a lot of ability. He’s solid defensively. And if you’re not solid defensively, you know, it’s tough to stay in the NHL. Especially at such a young age. But he’s really solid in the corner. He’s got a good stick, and he’s reading the game really well.
Q. Did your team learn anything from that Game 4 against the Rangers? Was that a teaching experience about not letting up when you have a chance to bury a team?
COACH THERRIEN: Well, we take game by game. It’s like we’ve been there before, we had a three‑game lead with Ottawa, with the Rangers. I thought we reacted well against Ottawa. We won the series. The game against the Rangers, honestly, in the first half of the game we were dominated, and Lundqvist was outstanding that game. If it was not for him, we probably wouldn’t have won that game.
Obviously, it was great. They scored on power plays, and they won that game. So every game is different. Every time is different. Yes, we go through experiences. We understand it could be a cliche like I like to say, but we know it’s going to be a tough game. It’s going to be a demanding game to win. They’re going to give everything they’ve got. This is Game 7 for them. So we’re going to try to match that intensity. We’re going to try to match that emotion that they could have. But in the meantime, we’ve got to focus on the way we play, and focus on the way we’re supposed to play to get success, and that’s going to be a challenge for us tonight.
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