Kukla's Korner Hockey
by Paul on 05/10/07 at 06:15 PM ET
Randy Carlyle, Chris Pronger, Teemu Selanne and Scott Niedermayer took part in a press conference today…
Q. Randy, Giguere had to go through a lot at the end of the season, start of the playoffs. Are you impressed by the way he focused on the game still?
COACH RANDY CARLYLE: Again, you know, I think that when people go through hurdles in life and things that do happen outside of the game, then get an opportunity to go back to work, I think work becomes a little bit of a haven. Once you can satisfy in your own mind that everything’s okay at home, the ability to go back to work is really a relief for the individual.
I think that was the case with Giguere. He was through a situation that took some time to resolve. He got the opportunity to come back and practice for a couple of days. He didn’t play right away. He probably felt that he was more deserved of playing right away, but we had a goaltender that won three in a row, and as a coach you have to make those decisions.
When we lost the game in Minnesota, he grabbed the net from then on he’s given us quality goaltending and has given us a chance in every game. That’s all you can really ask from him. It’s a tribute to the individual to go through the personal family situation and then to come back and be ready to play at a high level. He’s to be commended for that.
Q. Time off, will that play a big factor in Game 1? Playing on the road for the first time in the playoffs, how does this team feel going into the game tomorrow night?
COACH RANDY CARLYLE: Again, as a coaching staff, we try to do things that is going to give us the best chance for success. Sometimes you’re going to be criticized if you don’t necessarily play to the level which you’re capable of. What we’ve tried to do, we’ve changed up a few things, we’ve tried to get more one-on-one competition-type drills to get our players prepared for the drop of the puck tomorrow night.
I think that’s important. I think if you ask any coach, they’d take the rest. They would like to have the bumps and bruises and the ability for their players to heal. I think that’s at the forefront here.
But we feel we’ve done and taken the necessary steps to prepare our players. Ultimately we’ve laid a lot of that responsibility in our players’ laps. We always talk about building that box within. That means they’ve got to self-prepare in a lot of ways, too. It’s not like we set them on the goal line and skated them for three or four days in a row or skated for half an hour or did anything. We tried to monitor the things that we felt were necessary. It was up to them to take that extra step if they felt they needed that to be ready for the puck drop.
Q. Coach, can you talk a little bit about what you’ve seen out of Drew Miller, what maybe the future could hold for him?
COACH RANDY CARLYLE: With Drew Miller, he’s played one game for us. A young guy that has shown a tremendous amount of hockey sense. He can move. He’s got an uncanny ability to get around the rink. He’s a great positional player.
Obviously it’s a little overwhelming I think for him at this point to step in into our lineup. We wouldn’t want to put a young player and overexpose him in the situation right now. But we feel confident that once he gets comfortable and gets up to speed with the pace of the game, he could be a guy we’d have to rely on because he has a tremendous amount of hockey sense, he works extremely hard. I don’t think there’s any secret recipe that when players demonstrate they can read situations and they’re trustworthy, coaches will go to them quicker and more often.
Q. Randy, from a pure matchup and strategy-wise, being physical, which you have been all year, is that the best way to counteract the Red Wings’ puck possession?
COACH RANDY CARLYLE: I think the Red Wings present another challenge for our hockey club. We know they’re a veteran group. We know they have playoff moxy. We know they have played against two strong forechecking hockey clubs in Calgary and San Jose. You know, they’ve weathered the storm, as to say.
They’re a hockey club that in a lot of ways people have probably looked at them and said, They weren’t going to do this, they weren’t going to do that, but they’ve done it. They have earned their opportunity to be here. They haven’t done it with smoke and mirrors.
Any time that you have the veteran core that they have, the leadership core that they have, you know you’re going to be in a competitive battle. That’s going to be at the forefront.
For us to be successful, we have to play our style of game. It will be an interesting matchup.
Q. Your team was in the Conference Finals last year. What kind of experience can you take out of that into this year’s Conference Finals, the experience that you gain over the year and how you grow as a team?
COACH RANDY CARLYLE: Again, I think it starts from the end of last year. When we lost to Edmonton, we felt we didn’t get quite enough an opportunity to get our game going. When we broke up, we made the statement that mediocrity wasn’t going to be something that was going to be part of our vocabulary when we came back in September, and that our sophomore jinx, our young players were not going to be afforded that opportunity.
Then when the acquisition of Chris Pronger, I think it put a huge statement on our hockey club that we were very serious about our season and taking the next step and becoming an elite hockey club. Our players have worked extremely hard and have committed. We haven’t had a lot of turnover. We’ve had more addition than we’ve had to say subtraction of people. Our group was pretty much melted together from the first day. That consistency factor, not only through the course of the season and into the playoffs, we feel it’s a huge advantage in our growth terms as far as where our team is at.
I think those are important steps that you have to take to become an elite team.
Q. Will you have Marchant back for Game 1? If so, what addition will that be?
COACH RANDY CARLYLE: Todd Marchant has been cleared to play by the medical staff. As far as the addition of him, we’ve pushed Todd Marchant as far as the conditioning aspect of it because it’s not easy for any player to miss the amount of time he’s missed and not participate in the first two rounds of the playoffs, then expect him to come back in and to be at 110 percent, because that’s what you’re asking of your players.
We’re realistic about where he’s at in his first game. We think with the addition of him into our lineup, it gives us more strength. People talked, were critical of us that we were a three-line hockey club. Well, we’re not a three-line hockey club. We’re a hockey club that feels we can utilize all our players to their strengths. That will be the key if we can put people in situations that they’re not overwhelmed by and that they’re comfortable handling. I think that will be the most important thing.
I think Todd Marchant is ready to give us what he’s got.
Q. Randy, Lindy Ruff talked earlier in the playoffs about some of the challenges facing the Sabres, learning to play with expectations, as opposed to being consistently an underdog. Have you noticed a change or is there something similar you’ve gone through coming into this playoff season where you’re expected to win?
COACH RANDY CARLYLE: Well, you know, we don’t really take what other people have to say about us seriously. We leave that to the experts. There’s lot of them around (smiling).
What we try to do is hold ourselves accountable to one another. We have a certain standard we have to play to to have success of the our players understand that. They’re at the forefront of it. All the things we do are based upon what is best for our team. Our players have been excellent at providing us with the desired effort, the desired commitment and the leadership that they’ve displayed.
Our young players have accepted their roles. Our veteran players have accepted their roles. If your role is two minutes and you do it well, well, that’s great because that’s what we need. We need everybody pulling in the same direction, everybody understanding what we need to do to be successful.
Q. Coach, can you talk about Teemu’s ability to overcome all the injuries he’s had, whether from his opponents or his own teammates?
COACH RANDY CARLYLE: There’s a lot been said about Teemu, obviously with the number of stitches that he’s supporting this year in the playoffs, a couple of them delivered by his teammate. It’s just perseverance I think with a player like Teemu Selanne. He was probably a player that a lot of people had felt wasn’t going to be able to play to the level. Again, he made a conscious effort through the lockout to rebuild his knee. His conditioning was probably at the highest level last year. Then he came back even stronger this year.
I think Teemu’s displayed a passion and has provided that leadership for our younger players to learn from.
As far as the stick fouls, he’s had a run of bad luck, I guess. It’s one of those things that if you get clipped once, I guess you’re going to get clipped again, or they come in bunches. He’s had his fair share. Hopefully he doesn’t receive any more.
Questions for Chris Pronger, Scott Niedermayer or Teemu Selanne.
Q. Chris, last year in the playoffs you played on a team that wasn’t expected to win any of the rounds that they played in. This spring you’re playing on a team that, at least from the outside, the expectations are different, you’re expected to win. Can you describe what differences are in the dressing room of those two teams, if there are any?
CHRIS PRONGER: Actually not much. You know, I think the biggest thing to compare the two from last year to this year is that we believe we should win. You don’t worry about what the media writes, what fans are thinking or what anybody outside of that locker room is thinking. It’s what you believe in that locker room, what you believe you can accomplish.
Q. Scott, you had Marty Brodeur behind you for many years. Can you compare the feeling you have playing in front of Giguere, Montreal based goaltender?
SCOTT NIEDERMAYER: I mean, you don’t get this far in the playoffs without great goaltending. We’ve had that. Ever since I’ve been here, last two years, Giggy has played great. Bryzgalov, when he’s been in net, has stepped in and done a great job for us.
Goaltending is a big part of hockey, big part of playoff hockey. Like I said, you don’t get where we are right now without great goaltending. Our guys are doing a great job for us.
Q. Chris and Scott, post lockout NHL, how do you deal with a guy like Holmstrom who gets to the net where you can’t treat him quite the way you used to prior?
CHRIS PRONGER: You know what, I think the biggest thing is initially you try to box him out, not allow him easy access to the front. Once he’s there, just leave him there, kind of play around him.
It’s a lot easier for the goaltender to look around him than it is to look around two guys. You know, I guess it’s a lot of communication with your goaltender and a lot of just figuring out what he wants.
Q. Teemu, the Wings were talking about how difficult it is to play against those two guys to your right. What is it like to play against the likes of Nicklas Lidstrom and Chris Chelios?
TEEMU SELANNE: It’s another challenge. Obviously those guys have done so great job for their team. But, you know, nothing I haven’t faced before. Like you said, I have played with these two yahoos here, and it’s never easy. It’s a challenge for me and the rest of the forwards to find the way to get the damage done.
But obviously you have to earn all the success.
Q. Chris, years down the road, do you think this might be a series you look back and think, that was kind of cool, three finalists for the Norris? Chelios, your coach. From a defenseman’s perspective, is this kind of a neat thing?
CHRIS PRONGER: I think if we win, it will be cool (smiling).
No, I don’t think it’s neat for the fans and neat for people that are fans of hockey to kind of see that. I don’t think we’re really focusing on that as players.
Q. Chris, I ask you because you saw them last year, a lot has been said that the Wings are a grittier bunch this year. Do you see that or are you going to expect that in this series?
CHRIS PRONGER: Yeah, I think they’ve obviously made a lot of additions to the team that they had last year. They added a lot of grit at the deadline and certainly are playing a gritty game, not playing the prototypical Detroit style that you’ve seen over the last 10 or 15 years.
They still play a puck-possession game, but have that edge to them, and will dump and chase, play a physical game. That’s something that we’ve obviously tried to counteract.
Q. Chris, when you take a look at JS’s numbers, he’s right at the top in save percentage, goals-against average. Why do you think he’s not getting the same amount of attention as some of his peers that have been eliminated at this point?
CHRIS PRONGER: I think I can turn that around and ask you that question. Why are you not covering him (smiling)? Are you not giving him his due? Why are you not out there doing a period piece and story on JS Giguere?
You look at the goalies that are left, Hasek is getting a lot of press, he plays in Detroit, gets a lot of coverage. I think Giggy is getting some great coverage down in our market. But I think a lot of you East Coast folks haven’t really warmed up to the fact that you want to come down and see us in California. You only want to talk about us when we’re over here in the east.
Q. Could you sort of describe what distinguishes each of you and do the same talking about Chelios and Lidstrom as well?
CHRIS PRONGER: Well, Scott is very outgoing, talkative guy (smiling). Pretty much sums him up.
No, I mean, I think we’re kind of pretty much two different players. He’s obviously a tremendous skater that likes to carry the puck and make plays, sees the ice very well. I’m kind of the polar opposite of that.
As for Lidstrom and Chelios, they’re obviously two veteran defensemen that have been doing it a long time and really haven’t skipped a beat. Obviously Lidstrom with his passing ability and steady defensive play, and Chelios with his agitating in-your-face style; he’s 45 years old, still a great skater, can move around out on the ice, can kind of do things that most 45-year-olds only dream of.
SCOTT NIEDERMAYER: I’ve enjoyed playing with Chris. There has been really no adjustment. Like Chris said, we complement each other in the way we play. We’re looking to do different things out there. When we’re out there together, especially on the power play, there’s really no stepping on anybody’s toes.
As far as Chelios and Lidstrom, you know, just two obviously great defensemen. I think playing defense, there’s a lot of things you learn as you get older, things that improve your game. Being a smart player helps you tremendously. I think those two guys are obviously very smart back there in what they do.
Q. Teemu, talk about playing at Joe Louis Arena, how that environment differs from other arenas, especially during the postseason?
TEEMU SELANNE: Obviously it’s a great building to play, a lot of history behind that building. Great fans here. We have to really enjoy this loud building.
But, you know, it’s just like another game. Doesn’t matter really where you play. But obviously it’s a little more special when you go to a building that has been a long time and, like I said, a lot of history behind.
Q. Chris, can you talk about what you’ve seen out of Drew Miller since he’s been with the club? Any rituals or good-natured hazing that veterans do to the rookies during playoff time?
CHRIS PRONGER: Yeah, you know, we’ve instituted a few new rules since I got here. He likes to bring my bags to my room and unpack for me, pulls my sheets (laughter). No, I’m just kidding.
No, you know what, since he’s been up, he’s worked extremely hard. Randy talked about it, he got into the one game, played a little bit, got a taste for what it’s going to be like. You know, it’s nice to see young guys like that come up. Obviously, he’s got some lineage with his brother playing in Buffalo, kind of understands what’s going on. It’s nice do have that energy and youthful enthusiasm coming into practice.
He’s worked really hard when he’s been called upon to play in practice on some of the top lines.
You know, some of the rookie hazing you want to know about? Really hasn’t been much. It’s kind of playoffs, so we kind of lay off the young guys.
Q. Teemu, talk about your relationship with Filppula.
TEEMU SELANNE: I have known him a long time. It’s great to see how he’s getting better and better. I really think he’s a really good all-around player now. He’s just getting better and better.
Obviously when you have all the tools, you have the skills and skating ability, all the things what you need. Just adding the confidence and what you need in this league, you’re going to be great. I’m expecting he’s going to be really, really important player for them down in the future. He’s the first Finnish guy who has played here, so it’s something new here.
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