Kukla's Korner Hockey
by Alanah McGinley on 05/13/08 at 04:53 PM ET
Interviews today with the Dallas Stars’ Mike Modano and coach, Dave Tippett.
Q How is your head?
MIKE MODANO: Good.
Q Do you think you’ll be in for Game 4?
MIKE MODANO: Yeah.
Q What do you have to do? We were talking out here, like if you make one mistake, they jump on it. But you can’t have a process of we can’t make mistakes and still have to try and be aggressive?
MIKE MODANO: Yeah, you can’t get really probably caught up in too much thinking about: Well, if we make this mistake, we’re going to pay for it.
You just have to go out there with reckless abandon. If you do make a mistake, get back, recover, and cover for each other.
So, yeah, hockey is a tough game to play a mistake-free type game. Things move too fast.
And things happen out there that are unpredictable, that you don’t know what’s going to happen. But how you adjust from them and how you recover from them is the big problem. And it could be a great answer for us.
So we just have to do what we can to have a really strong 60 minutes, somehow contain and get a lead and hold onto it for a little longer than we have.
Q What’s the mood in the room? What’s it like in there?
MIKE MODANO: It’s fine. It’s just like any other day. You win or lose, you can’t get too high or too low. But you just have to stay on an even keel and just keep pushing forward.
It’s a tough situation. But we just have to focus on tomorrow. You can’t get three games back in one. And we have to do everything that we can to put up a great effort.
Q Is this desperation or aggressive hockey or combination of both?
MIKE MODANO: Handful of everything. Desperation, backs against the wall. Doing what we can to kind of survive to see another day. We’ve responded in those situations before in the past, where we’ve come up with great efforts. And all around, everybody is contributing. So we need everybody throughout the whole team. Special teams needs to be just something that can be a big factor for us, if we get that going.
Q You talked yesterday about them maybe having the best five-man units in the game. Talk about Zetterberg and Datsyuk, specifically, and what makes it so tough to play against them?
MIKE MODANO: Just a lot of things at a high tempo. They skate well. They do things on the fly. They’re great in traffic. You think you have them covered or checked and they find ways to find the seams and they find each other.
I would look for each other, if I had a pair like that looking on the ice, too.
But they’re pretty dynamic one-on-ones, but they check, and they’re all over the ice. And they’ve proven why they’re up for the Selke and they still score and find ways to win games by defending or scoring.
Q When mistakes are made, how much is it them forcing you guys, how much do they force you guys into making, or is it just mistakes on your part, or do they have a hand in that?
MIKE MODANO: When we’re at the top of our game, we feel we make team mistakes. We put them in high-low percentage situations and make bad decisions with the puck, and then we seem to have it all the time. We did that against, for the most part, Anaheim and San Jose. And it feels like we’re getting a little bit of a taste of our own medicine right now, where you feel you don’t have much room, you don’t have much space to operate or make plays.
But the neutral zone is key for them, just like it is for us. And that’s where we get our transition. That’s where they get their transition, off mistakes, off turnovers, off guys trying to make plays in certain areas of the ice, that if you do turn it over, it’s going to cost you.
Q As a player who transformed from a really good offensive player to a solid two-way player, how much respect do you have for Datsyuk, who came from Russia, is a scorer and now is a defensive stalwart?
MIKE MODANO: Yeah, it says a lot about how they’re coached, how they’re looked upon by their teammates or they’re asked to do in different situations. And I think as you get older, you get more involved in the League. You’re kind of put in situations or circumstances that ask you to be a good two-way player. And checking, it’s not as hard as everybody perceives it to be, but when you can add scoring to it, you are in all areas of the ice and all situations and that just makes you that much more of a difficult player to play against.
Q You guys had the Sharks in the same situation 3-0, they came back, made a series of nothing. Anything to be gained here?
MIKE MODANO: We have just one left here at home and just have to get the win. That’s what we discussed. That’s what we’re gearing ourselves for tomorrow, just to try to make this thing interesting.
We do get on a roll and get some confidence going, get a little doubt in their mind, maybe, make it difficult.
But we all know winning 4 is tough, but the 4th game is always the hardest to win.
Q How much did you guys miss Stu and Jere the other night?
MIKE MODANO: Those guys are valuable guys. They bring a lot to the table. Like I said, they’re very dependable and reliable-type players in circumstances, in situations on the ice.
But they make a big difference for our team. So they’re missed, and we’re just trying to find ways or personnel to step up and fill those holes.
Q Dave, what are you trying to get across to your guys out there, when you were talking to them going through practice?
DAVE TIPPETT: If you live, you gotta act like you want to live. That’s what it is. If you think this thing is over and you act like that way, it’s going to be over. Come out there with energy today. Do what you gotta do to get prepared for Game 4. Simple as that. Don’t hang your head. Get up, let’s go, got some work to do, and get at it.
Q How hard is it to do that, how hard is that to make them truly believe that?
DAVE TIPPETT: It’s one thing to say, it’s another thing to get them to do it. That’s why we had a good spirit at practice out there. You put them in situations, you’re not thinking about it, you do it. That’s when hockey players are at their best.
Q Has that been a problem, too much overthinking?
DAVE TIPPETT: No, we’re chasing games.
What happened, the best part of our game through the playoffs was how well we’ve played together. We’ve been a strong, strong group.
This series we ended up chasing games. We’re behind a lot in games. What happens is players get the mind-set that they want to do more. They feel like they want to help out so much that they get individual. And when your strength is as a group and your individuals start trying to do more individually, it takes you out of that team concept.
That’s where we are. We’ve been chasing too many games, and it’s led to some turnovers, led to some situations where we’re not as strong as a group as we need to be. And that goes, starts with the goaltender, to our “D” pairs, to our forwards.
The reason we had success is because all the parts of our game have been in place. And we’ve chased this series, and we’ve got away from that. If we’re going to have a chance to win Game 4 and come back here, we have to play well as a group.
Q It seemed like in Game 3 you had energy. Again, I don’t know if it’s misplaced?
DAVE TIPPETT: Like I said, there’s little parts that happen that make you chase the game. There’s times when I think players want to win so bad, they want to be part of it. They want to be the difference-maker so bad, that they overdo things and actually trying to do more is actually a detriment.
And that’s where we’ve gotten. We’ve gotten into situations where we’ve tried to do so much that it’s led to chances against us. And right now we don’t have the ability to sweep those up, try to capitalize on those chances.
Q How is the health of Morrow, how is Lehtinen?
DAVE TIPPETT: Lehtinen doesn’t look like he’ll be a player tomorrow. Barnes is still out. Morrow and Modano weren’t on the ice today. They should be fine for tomorrow. And Fistric is sick, so that’s why he wasn’t out there yesterday.
Q Looked like you were doing coaching out there, what kind of adjustments will you do from Game 3 to Game 4?
DAVE TIPPETT: You’re trying to coach, trying to find a way to win. There are certain things we talked about that we want to make sure are in place for tomorrow. It’s part of that, trying to get your team to grab things that give you a chance to win. That’s what we were doing out there today.
Q Is it especially tough with the young guys, like Niskanen or Daley, when they make a mistake, how do you keep them confident?
DAVE TIPPETT: You gotta work at it. And the reality is we throw them right back in those situations, because we don’t have choices. They’ve been in that situation all the time. And part of it, like Niskanen, is a good example, because what’s happened is he’s played so much this year that we’ve had games where he’s struggled.
And then you build him up and he plays very well the next game. Those are situations where you build players up. You get up. A mistake is a mistake. It’s how you recover from it and what you do the next day that matters now. That’s our mind-set right now.
Q When the task is this monumental, how do you keep it from overwhelming you?
DAVE TIPPETT: I’m going to go back to the old coach-speak, one game at a time, one period at a time. Right now, we have to focus on having a good start in Game 4, come out and get a good start. See if we can get a good lead in the game and play more of our style instead of chasing the game.
And it’s going to take everybody to do it. Like I say, we can’t say, oh, Richards is going to go out and get us a big goal and then we’re going to be fine.
We gotta come out as a group and play well as a group. If we do get a lead, stay as that tight team group that we’ve been to make it successful, and in that, like I say, you’ve got all the parts. You’ve got goaltending, strong defending, capitalizing on chances, strong special teams, those are all things, if you do them well, you can increase that belief system. And you do it short-term, hopefully that continues long-term.
Q How much do you think this is the toughest time to sort of drum up effort from the team?
DAVE TIPPETT: It’s tough times, but if you like the character of your team, it’s not as tough as you think. I love the way our young guys come in, put on the board this morning, get your heads up and we had good energy out there today. That’s a positive sign for today.
Q Can you talk a bit about Datsyuk and Zetterberg being fairly effective in this series, especially last night. How tough are they to match up against because they’re so complete?
DAVE TIPPETT: Last night we had no answer for them. We tried a couple different things, but their skill level is just phenomenal. But it’s not the skill level that beats you, it’s the work ethic that beats you. They just hound the puck. They’re top, top skill guys that are both up for the Selke trophy, which is usually a trophy given to one of the hardest working players in the league.
That’s what you’re dealing with. Again, we’re not going to rely on any one person or one set of “D” to do it. That has to be a group effort. When those two guys, they’re going to get their chances, they’re good players, but your group effort has to nullify them as much as possible.
Q Make any big changes to the power play?
DAVE TIPPETT: Try to score more goals.
DAVE TIPPETT: We don’t have a lot of options right now with some of the people we have out. So we’ll tinker with it again. Our power play got us some zone time, got us some chances but we’ve got to capitalize on the chances.
Q Is there a chance that Fistric will be in tomorrow?
DAVE TIPPETT: He’s sick today. I doubt he’ll be ready for tomorrow.
Q Are there little things you can point to for windows of hope or do you say to look back to the body of work up to this point?
DAVE TIPPETT: I think both. That’s part of your preparation every day. We had stretches in that game last night where we were very good. We did some great things. In the first period, we had them on the run, got the goal to tie it, then we ended up giving the goal again. So you try to accentuate what you did, get them on the run. Obviously want to take away those mistakes that give up the goal against.
But you gotta be looking for little bites where your group can grab ahold of it and believe in it. Those are things that, long-term, last couple of series and things we’ve done this year, certainly come into play on that. But short-term and last night gotta take some good things out of that last night that will help us tomorrow.
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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
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