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March 21, 2007

Keith Tkachuk

DAVID KEON: Good afternoon, everyone. I'm David Keon of the National Hockey League's public relations department, and I'd like to welcome you to today's call. Today's guest is Atlanta Thrashers forward Keith Tkachuk. Thanks to Keith for taking the time today to answer your questions, and thanks to Rob Koch of the Thrashers public relations department for arranging the call.
Since being acquired from St. Louis on February 25th, Keith has recorded six goals and three assists for nine points in ten games, with a +7 rating as Atlanta has won eight of ten games.
Keith has notched 52 points so far this season on 26 goals and 26 assists. Four goals in the final eight games will give him 30 for the season, and that would be the tenth time in his 15-year NHL career. With 472 career goals, the native of Melrose, Massachusetts, ranks fourth on the all-time list of U.S.-born goal scorers, trailing Mike Modano with 503, Joe Mullen at 502 and Jeremy Roenick at 492.
The Thrashers, who are first in the Southeast Division with 88 points, host the San Jose Sharks tomorrow night and meet the Penguins in Pittsburgh on Saturday. Thanks to Keith for taking the time to join us and answer your questions. We'll open it up now.

Q. I understand you left practice today, just a little case of the flu. You're just not feeling real well?
KEITH TKACHUK: I woke up this morning, I wasn't feeling very well, so I just went up there, got medication, took a day off, and I'm just resting now in my hotel room.

Q. So you figure no problem for tomorrow night in Pittsburgh and all that?
KEITH TKACHUK: Yeah. I mean, unless something drastic happens I'll be ready tomorrow.

Q. Just in terms of what you've been able to accomplish, your record speaks for itself. Would you describe yourself as being excited coming to this team when you were first notified of the deal?
KEITH TKACHUK: Yeah, I was very excited. Emotionally it's an exciting time of the year. Coming from St. Louis and coming to play in Atlanta, things are going our way, I think. Thankfully, because as you can see in the standings, things change day by day and it's incredible to see the movement. We've won eight out of ten and we've gained a little ground. You think you'd gain a lot more than that but we've gained a little more. Things are tight right now.

Q. Do you look forward to next season, being unrestricted? What are your thoughts on perhaps coming back to Atlanta, or are you just going to keep an open mind?
KEITH TKACHUK: Well, my season is right now; whatever happens, something will happen. I haven't even thought about that yet.

Q. I was just wondering, when the trade was made for you to go to Atlanta, there was a lot mentioned with the price that the Thrashers paid to get you and how desperate they were to kind of turn around what was a bad little run there. I'm wondering for yourself individually, being traded to try and help a team make the playoffs, how much pressure goes along with that?
KEITH TKACHUK: I think there's pressure no matter where you play, no matter where you go. Obviously the price is what it is. I have no control over that. Anytime you get traded, this time of the year there's always pressure, so I don't know. St. Louis couldn't have been happy for them. I just worry about playing hockey right now.

Q. I know you've been playing a lot more center, I guess, this year than in the past. Can you just talk a little bit about that transition?
KEITH TKACHUK: Seriously it's tough because I've been a left winger my whole career and it's definitely an adjustment. In St. Louis Andy Murray wanted me to play center because we were hurting down the middle a little bit. After a while it got more and more comfortable. My skating needs a lot more work yet defensively to be aware of. When it comes to forecheck and stop, sometimes you have to be the third guy (inaudible).
But I feel very comfortable now. It took a while but I actually like it. It's more skating, you see the ice a lot more. It's pretty good to get the puck. It's not a bad thing.

Q. Is face-off the most difficult part of that?
KEITH TKACHUK: You know, the one thing I did do over the course of my career is take a lot of face-offs, especially on power plays. It's an adjustment, especially when you're facing some tough guys. Some nights are really good, some nights are tough. But it's not bad at all, I don't mind.

Q. I was just wondering what your take was on recent events, like up here there's been a lot of talk about lack of respect between players recently given the Jordin Tootoo incident, the Chris Simon on Ryan Hollweg, and you've been a guy who's always been able to take care of himself. Have you noticed that the elite player faces maybe a tougher time these days?
KEITH TKACHUK: You know, it's a different game now. You see how things go and how strong they are. I think guys are taking a little bit of liberties, whereas a couple years ago you had to be held accountable.
Now I think there are more and more guys that aren't accountable. It's not fair. You want to do something because you can't because you're worried about the consequences. Guys have to be more careful and have a little more respect for each other.
That being said, if you guys go out and -- there's no question, I don't care who he is, if he's a star player and it's a clean hit, that's what you have to do to win. But there's a fine line there, and I think it's been crossed way too much this year.

Q. Have you noticed in the brief time with Atlanta that maybe guys sometimes get a little aggressive with Hossa and Kovalchuk?
KEITH TKACHUK: The bottom line is whatever it takes to win. If I was playing against Kovalchuk, you want to try to prevent them from playing well so you've got to be tough on them. I would do that against Pittsburgh or whoever else you played. You've got to make it tough on those guys.
But there's a line that you don't want to cross and you have to have respect for each other. Obviously hitting from behind is not worth it for anybody. You just can't do it. Obviously it comes to a head, and it's been tough for the last month and a half now.
DAVID KEON: Thanks very much, Keith.

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