Kukla's Korner Hockey
by Paul on 05/13/08 at 02:08 PM ET
Q. A couple of off‑ice issues. Gary Roberts, how is he feeling? Is there a chance he might play? And Jordan Staal getting some unfortunate news. How do you keep him focused for tonight’s game?
COACH THERRIEN: First of all, Gary will take a decision tonight. He’s sick this morning when he came to report to the team. We’ll see how he’s going to feel before the game, and we’ll go from there.
Regarding Jordan, he’ll leave the team tomorrow morning, and he’s going to come back with the team tomorrow night.
Q. How do you keep him focused for tonight’s game or do you leave him alone?
COACH THERRIEN: This is personal. Everybody deals with those things differently. So he came to see me yesterday announcing the bad news, but he seems all right. He’s focused to play tonight, and I’m sure all of his concentration will be there for tonight’s game.
Q. A couple of your players thought that you’ve been getting away from some of the things, the details, that you like in your game and maybe not playing as sharp as they’d like to. Did you see it that way, too? Do you feel like you haven’t played your best hockey in this series yet, or what?
COACH THERRIEN: Well, first of all, we played against a good hockey team. Every time that you get in the conference final, the momentum could switch from one end to the other pretty quick. And you’ve got to give a lot of respect to the other team, too, as well.
There are things that, yes, we’re going to try to improve and concentrate to make sure that we’re going to be 100%. Tonight’s going to be a good challenge, and we’ll face adversity playing on the road. But we’ve always been capable to raise our game when the challenge is there.
Q. What changes in the first five or ten minutes of that first road game as far as approach?
COACH THERRIEN: Well, you know that they’re going to come hard. And we’ve been facing that so far every series. We’ve been facing that against Ottawa, and the first ten minutes. They came in, they got pumped with their crowd and did a good job and we were containing really well. Against the Rangers, I was kind of surprised we were setting the tone pretty much early in the game.
But tonight, I’m expecting they’re going to come on hard and on the defensemen. But it’s going to be up to us to try to generate some turnovers to put those guys on their heels as much as we can. And even trying to dictate the game ‑‑ I thought we were dictating the game so far in the series. Because we’re on the road, we’re going to try to dictate the game as well.
Q. Are you surprised at all about at what your defense has been able to do against the Flyers top line?
COACH THERRIEN: Well, we’ve been doing that pretty much so far this year, too. So am I’m surprised? No. I know what they’re capable to do, that’s why I’m not that surprised. But you’ve got to give credit to our players. They stick to the plan. One guy’s got success, it’s Richards. He’s gotten great in the playoffs. He’s a good leader. He’s tough to contain.
It’s always a challenge for the players on the ice when he’s out there. He could do a lot of things defensively. Defensively, he’s killing penalties. He’s doing the power play. So he’s their heart and soul player. And he’s got great playoffs and a great season.
But for us, we can focus only on one guy. We’ve got to make sure when he’s aware when he’s on the ice. But we’ve got to stick to our plan and make sure we’re still focusing.
Q. To get back to Jordan Staal a little bit, he had a slow start this season but he’s been able to find that extra gear in the playoffs. You’ve shown a lot of faith in him putting him out there in key situations, particularly for a key face‑off. Can you talk a little bit about him and what he brings to the team?
COACH THERRIEN: Well, he’s a shut‑down guy, even though he’s only 19 years old. So that is pretty amazing for me. He’s so smart on the ice. Last year he surprised a lot of people. I think he surprised himself, too, to score 29 goals. Because the year before in Juniors he scored 26. I think it was in Peterborough if I’m right.
But last year was more as a winger. It’s more transition here for him. We didn’t want to give him the responsibility as a centerman. This year it’s a full‑time season as a centerman, because we believed he was ready for that challenge. It took away a little bit from his offense, and that’s normal.
We got a long‑term plan with him to where we see him play. But right now we want him to concentrate to play well defensively. He’s so smart. He’s got such a good stick. He’s doing a lot of good things. He’s killing penalties. He’s one of the top guys to kill penalties.
For 19 years old, I’m impressed. I’m impressed the way he’s capable of playing on the ice at crucial times, you know.
Q. I’m wondering if you could talk about Ty Conklin, obviously, a guy that’s kind of been forgotten given that he hasn’t played in such a long time. But do you even get this far in a sense if he doesn’t do what he did in the middle of the year?
COACH THERRIEN: He’s one of the reasons why we’re here. I believe home ice is important. We’re fighting for home ice. First of all, we were fighting to make the playoff, that was the number one goal. And when we lost Fleury, we could have been in trouble. A guy like Conklin stepped in and he was playing his best hockey of his career. He’s got numbers to be recognized as one of the best goalies in the league.
He surprised me. He surprised his teammates. And we were riding him, and he did a fantastic job. Now it was a battle against who is going to win the net between Fleury and Conklin. And I believe Marc‑Andre won that battle. But Conklin did so much for the team. He deserves respect for that. And he’s a good teammate. He’s got a good approach. We gave him his chance to battle at the end. And because Marc‑Andre, the way he played, that’s why he got the net.
But I thought we were fair with him. And he knows that we were fair with him. As long as you’re fair with your player, they’re going to feel that they got respected, and that’s what we did.
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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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