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May 4, 2006

Jonathan Cheechoo

Chris Pronger

DAVID KEON: Welcome to today's call. This afternoon we are featuring the teams in the Western Conference Semifinals, and our first guest is San Jose Sharks forward Jonathan Cheechoo. The Maurice Richard Trophy winner is the National Hockey League's leading goal-scorer this season. Jonathan tallied two goals and two assists as the Sharks defeated Nashville 4-1 in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. San Jose opens Round 2 on Sunday at home against the Edmonton Oilers at 8 p.m. eastern time on CBC and OLN. Thanks to Jonathan for taking the time today to join us and answer your questions.
We'll open it up for questions now.
Q. Jonathan, a lot of people, when they think about the San Jose Sharks this year, they think about the tremendous season that you and Joe Thornton had. You look at the playoff scoring, you see Patrick Marleau out in front with the scoring. Makes your team a lot tougher where you have two scoring lines. What is your impression?
JONATHAN CHEECHOO: Yeah, definitely it's harder to key on one person when you have two lines going. Patty's line has been playing really well. The two rookies he's playing with, Milan Michalek and Steve Bernier, have really played well. It helps that they're so big. They're good along the boards. They got a lot of speed on that line.
It's a tough match-up. If they want to try to key on our line or Patty's line, they've got to face a second line coming at 'em, I think it makes things tougher on the other team.
Q. You were Western Conference finalists two seasons ago. You got off to a bit of a weak start this year, made the trade. Was it just the trade that turned the team around or were there other factors?
JONATHAN CHEECHOO: I think it was just a matter of everybody, you know, I guess getting a little bit of a wakeup call probably from the trade, too. Joe came in and has helped out immensely. He's played really well for us. Had an MVP-type season. What more can you ask for?
I think it just -- but for everybody else that was here before, I think we knew how well we could play because of what we did the year before. It was basically the same team, just maybe a few new faces jumped in there. You know, it was more of a wakeup call for us. Everybody just started to play well. We had the common goal of making the playoffs. We were working towards it. We were able to attain that. We knew it would take right down to the last minute. It was nice when we finally got it.
Q. Can you give me an overview of how you feel playing the Oilers?
JONATHAN CHEECHOO: Didn't really matter to us who we play. You know, if we meet a hot team, we're going to have to meet them eventually. I think playing the Oilers, it's going to be probably a pretty tough series. They're a pretty physical team. We have some pretty physical players on our team, as well. It should be a pretty good battle.
We match up pretty well in terms of the fact also that we both had to battle for a playoff spot coming in. You know, we've been playing kind of playoff hockey for the last little while. Everybody kind of matures a little quicker like a lot of the younger players that are inserted into the lineup. I think it should be a good series.
Q. With that in mind, when you look at the way the top four seeds fell in the Western Conference, you might have to have a long career before we see that again. The top four in the east advancing, the top four in the west not advancing. Do you feel it was a matter with the Sharks, it's not so much where you finish, but how you finish?
JONATHAN CHEECHOO: Yeah. We came in kind of on a roll. We'd been playing well for the last two or three months. It's something where we came in with a lot of confidence. Maybe some of the other teams, you know, were already assured a spot, were kind of taking it easy sort of. Maybe that's part of the reason why.
Q. The officiating standard in the first round was definitely one whereby power-plays were a big factor. How much did you enjoy the way the games were called?
JONATHAN CHEECHOO: Well, it's good that they're being consistent. I think that's the main thing. That's the thing everybody who plays the sport wants, is consistency out of the refs. They said they were going to stick to their guns. They did. I think that's good. It adds a lot more power-plays, gives you a lot more scoring, but at the same time if you play the game hard and use your speed, everybody's going to draw penalties. You're going to get the same amount of power-play chances. It's something where I think the power play now has become a very big part of the game. It's something that is going to need work from everybody.
Q. Joe was a Hart Trophy finalist, announced today. Could you explain, as a guy receiving all these passes, what makes him such a good play-maker in your mind.
JONATHAN CHEECHOO: Joe, he's one of those -- I don't know, I can't really describe how he makes some of those passes because they seem to come out of nowhere, like he squeezes them through the tightest spaces where only a puck can fit. There's not a lot of guys that can do that.
I think also a big part of his game is working the boards. He's so big and so strong, it's hard to contain him down low. A lot of times he draws a double-team which opens up one of his teammates. That's where he shows his talent. He's really good at finding the open teammate.
DAVID KEON: Thank you, Jonathan, for your time today.
DAVID KEON: We have Edmonton Oilers defenseman Chris Pronger. Chris led the Oilers in scoring with two goals and five assists for seven points in the first-round victory over Detroit Red Wings. He also led the NHL in average ice time per game with 33 minutes and 34 seconds. The Oilers open up the second round of the playoffs in San Jose on Sunday at 8 p.m. eastern time on CBC and OLN. We'll take questions for Chris Pronger now.
Q. It may be a good thing for the fans it starts Sunday. Do you think the party in Edmonton will be over by then?
CHRIS PRONGER: I sure hope so. It certainly is in our locker room now. We've had a couple days to obviously enjoy our victory and obviously now that we know who we're playing, we're able to start preparing and focusing on San Jose and how we're going to be able to try to beat them.
Q. How can you put into words the perhaps elevation of play by Edmonton in the first round versus down the stretch where you did have some trouble posting victories to clinch the final playoff spot? Once the playoffs started, you seem to have not looked back.
CHRIS PRONGER: Well, I think that's the biggest thing, is once we were able to get in, as you said, we didn't exactly light the world on fire the last 15 games or so, we were pretty up and down, played some great games and some not-so-great games. I think that's been kind of been something that we've been trying to work on and struggled with at times during the course of the season, is our consistency and bringing the same effort each and every night, following the same game plan.
Obviously, in that first round, we were able to really focus on just sticking to the game plan no matter what the score, whether we were up 2-Nothing or down 2-Nothing. I think that's one of the reasons why we were successful. Obviously, we're going to need to do that and even take it a step higher as we try to continue to move on in these playoffs.
Q. As you size up this opponent versus Detroit in Round 1, what do you see as the big differences between the Sharks and the Wings?
CHRIS PRONGER: I think obviously the first thing is they're going to play a lot more physical and they're going to pressure the puck a lot more. Detroit is used to having the puck and is a puck-possession team. Certainly you always want to play with the puck.
But I think San Jose is a little bit better at getting in the forecheck, playing a physical style of game, and obviously creating turnovers. That's something that we've got to be sure we're aware of and focus on stopping.
Q. Chris, I'm looking at the stats page here. The player who leads the National Hockey League in the playoffs with total ice time per game average is Chris Pronger, 33.34 minutes per game. Can you keep this up?
CHRIS PRONGER: Absolutely. I feel really good. I was telling somebody going into the playoffs that this is the best I've ever felt at this time of year going into the playoffs. My legs feel good and fresh. It's kind of funny, with all the travel, with the Olympics, having a broken foot, all that, I don't know why, but I just feel real good right now.
Q. How about the rest of the defense? I'm noticing that Jaroslav Spacek is playing, Steve Staios. There's a dropoff to Bergeron and Tarnstrom. I'm wondering, is that already going primarily with the four defensemen with Tarnstrom for power-plays?
CHRIS PRONGER: I think that third unit probably gets about 10 minutes a game. The 33 and a half minutes gets a little inflated with two double overtime games. Certainly they're going to need to be involved as we continue to go along.
Playing 30 minutes a game, I've been used -- when you get kind of used to doing it, kind of enjoy being on the ice all the time, it's something that you train all summer and throughout the course of the season to make sure you're in top condition to be able to play those types of minutes. I've done it all year long. Your body kind of adjusts and you get used to playing that many minutes. You know how to handle yourself on the ice because of that.
DAVID KEON: Thanks very much, Chris, for your time today. Good luck in the next round.
CHRIS PRONGER: Thanks, man. Appreciate it.
DAVID KEON: Thanks, everyone, for joining us. Have a great day.

End of FastScripts...

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