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May 14, 2016

Mike Sullivan

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: Practice Day

THE MODERATOR: We will open the floor immediately for questions.

Q. Mike, the NHL has decided no supplemental discipline for allowing Callahan the hit on Kris Letang. Any thoughts or observations on that?
COACH SULLIVAN: Nope. I don't have thoughts or observations.
The NHL's going to do their job, we're going to do ours. We're just going to play hockey.

Q. Is there any update on Brian Dumoulin? Anything coming out of Game1 that you can update us on today that may have an impact going into Game2 on Monday night?
COACH SULLIVAN: I can't give you an update at this point. I haven't had an opportunity yet to speak with our medical staff. We'll have more information on all that stuff tomorrow morning.

Q. Mike, I wanted to ask you about Malkin and Crosby. Malkin had a lot of opportunities last night. Do you feel like it's just a matter of time before those two break through as far as point production, getting some goals?
COACH SULLIVAN: Yeah, we believe it is. What we've tried to reiterate to both Sid and Gino is they have to focus on playing the game the right way, taking what they give us, not trying to force plays that aren't there in order to try to score goals.
When they play the game the right way, they're very difficult to play against. They help us on both sides of the puck. They're talented enough players that we think they'll score for us. That's really been our message to those guys.
As I said all along here, these guys have had much more of an impact on the games than I think people give them credit. That will continue to be our message.
We've got to make sure that we keep an unwavering focus and determination on playing the game the right way and not forcing things that aren't there. In order to score goals, if we take what the game gives us, those guys are talented enough players that they'll score.

Q. You just won a series without them scoring. Do you feel you can win the series if they keep playing the same way, regardless of whether the points come?
COACH SULLIVAN: I mean, obviously when they score goals, it gives our team a better chance to win. I don't think that's earth‑shattering news.
Having said that, when they play the game the right way, they're hard to play against. They wear opponents down. They deny opportunities for our opponents to generate any sort of offense as well.
We believe that these guys are going to continue to play hard for us. When they do, they're going to make us a better team. I think they always get the attention of our opponents' top players and top checkers each and every series. It's no different with this series. I think that's part of the burden of being an elite player in the league.
These guys have grown accustomed to it. We just have to find a way to be successful through this process.

Q. Mike, in terms of Maatta's performance, he's had some tough moments in the playoffs. Can you comment on the position and the goal and his performance last night.
COACH SULLIVAN: Sure. Obviously his positioning I think put him in a vulnerable circumstance because he allowed Killorn to get on the back side of him. Something that we tried to make our team aware of going into this series is that anytime there's any sort of separation from our forecheck, Tampa Bay likes to stretch the ice, they like to try to get behind our defense, and they have certain players that are more inclined to do it.
We just have to have an awareness, especially the defensemen, because they're usually the last line of defense. They're the guys that are going to have to defend it.
Olli, his positioning put him in a vulnerable situation on that particular goal, made it hard for him, difficult for him to recover. Obviously I think we would have liked that one back.

Q. Can you comment on his overall performance last night.
COACH SULLIVAN: Well, obviously we would like him to have more of a positive impact on the game. When Olli is making good decisions, when he's moving the puck quickly, when he keeps the game's tempo, that's when he's at his best, that's when he puts our team at our best.
I think in last night's game, I thought sometimes he was trying to do a little bit too much with the puck. When he does that, he puts himself in tough circumstances.

Q. Mike, having to quickly transition to dealing with Vasilevskiy instead of Bishop, how much of a scouting report do you have on him? Do you have much of a book on him?
COACH SULLIVAN: Sure, we have a scouting report on all the guys. It's certainly not going to change the way we play just because there's another goaltender in there. Different goaltenders have certain tendencies. We make our guys aware of it. But certainly from a team concept or a preparation standpoint, it really doesn't have an impact on how we're trying to play the game.
But certainly we make our guys well aware of some of their tendencies and where their strengths are, where their weaknesses may be, where we may have an opportunity to exploit.

Q. You practice puck retrievals in practice all the time. With the amount of pressure teams in the playoffs have put on your guys with forechecks, do you change the way you go about practicing retrievals, try to brace for hits like happened last night?
COACH SULLIVAN: No, I don't think we change it at all. The reason we practice puck retrievals, and we do it under pressure, is so we're giving our guys an opportunity to get repetitions under those very real game‑like circumstances so we can practice communication and getting better and working cooperatively in order to beat that pressure.
For the most part I thought our guys did a really good job last night. Part of the game is the physical play. We've been used to this for three months now. Most teams that try to play us, they try to use aggression against our foot speed, our quickness, some of the skill that we have. So it's not anything that our players aren't used to or ready for or expect or anticipate.
We know what's coming. We have strategies that we try to employ that we can use to try to beat that pressure. How we practice it, how we prepare for it, we've been doing that for quite some time now.

Q. Mike, you guys ended up with close to double the shot attempts that Tampa had. Are you satisfied with the quality of looks you had?
COACH SULLIVAN: I thought we had a fair amount of scoring chances. We had some high‑quality chances we didn't convert. I thought for the most part we controlled territory.
For me, where we have to get better is the quality of chances that we gave up. I don't think we gave up a significant amount of scoring chances, but the quality of the chances were very high.
We have to do a better job, I think, with our puck management, some of the key areas of the rink. I think we have to do a better job in our positioning, making sure we stay above people, on the right side of scrums, so that when we're in those 50/50 puck battles, there's a question of control, we have enough people on the right side of the puck, if we don't win the puck battle, we have to come three, four, five of us, to get to our scoring area.
I thought that was an area of our game where we have been very diligent throughout the course of the playoffs. I don't think we were at our best last night, and that certainly has to be a point of emphasis for our club.

Q. Mike, we've seen Matt Murray's save percentage dip a bit over the past three games. Will you consider Murray for Game2?
COACH SULLIVAN: We leave all options on the table with all of our positions. So it's not that we don't have these discussions on a daily basis or a game‑by‑game basis who we think is going to be in the lineup that gives us the best chance to win.
As far as what went on last night, we feel as though Matt had a very strong game. The goals that were scored were high‑quality chances. Very difficult saves. So I don't think it's an instance where Matt had a sub‑par performance.
That being said, we keep all options on the table. Those are discussions we'll have internally.

Q. Fleury over time that he's been practicing regularly, has he looked sharper in practice as you've moved on here?
COACH SULLIVAN: Well, certainly with each practice that he gets, the further away he gets from his injury, it gives him a better chance to be successful. That I think is obvious.
But obviously the challenge for him moving forward is that he hasn't played in an NHL game in quite some time. The intensity level, the reads, it's very difficult to simulate that in practice.
It's an imperfect situation. We're trying to make the best decisions we can, given the scenario.

Q. Mike, I think it's probably fair that we haven't seen as much from Conor Sheary in the last little while as we did in the Rangers series, maybe earlier on. Are you seeing some of that? Is it a question of riding it out? Sometimes with rookies, you hit a bit of a wall. What are you seeing with Conor and his role on that line with Sidney and Patric?
COACH SULLIVAN: I think Conor is helping us create opportunities. I think he's helping us create scoring chances. I think his quickness and his puck pursuit is evident game in and game out. That hasn't changed.
Really what's changed is that the line as a whole hasn't found the back of the net as much as it had early in the playoffs and through the course of the end of the regular season.
What the reasons are for that, do we look at the combinations that we have and potentially making some tweaks to our lines in order to try to spark a little bit of offense? We're going through that process today.
But I don't think it's a case of Conor Sheary's game has dipped. I don't see that at all. I think he's playing hard. I think his quickness is there. I think he's made some plays with Sid and Horny that have created some scoring chances. He's been a big part of some of the goals in the last playoff series.
Horny's overtime goal, I believe he was a big part of in one of those games. So making contributions. They're trying to play the game the right way. The further you go along in the playoffs, it gets harder and harder to score goals. We've got to make sure that we don't knee‑jerk to those circumstances, but we try to look at it in a logical fashion and try to see the game for what it is and make the appropriate decisions.

Q. Mike, what were your impressions of Vasilevskiy, especially for a young goaltender?
COACH SULLIVAN: I thought he was solid. He made some big saves for them. I thought we had some real high‑quality scoring chances. He made some big saves. He gave their team a chance to win.
I thought we could have put more pressure on him early, right away, when he first took the net over last night. I don't think we grabbed a hold of the momentum as best that we could have or should have.
But I do think there were stretches of the game in the second half of that game where we had some extended zone time, put some pressure on him, and he made some timely saves.

Q. If Brian's ailment were to keep him out of the lineup, what have you gotten out of Justin Schultz in the three post‑season games he's played for you?
COACH SULLIVAN: He's brought to us what he brought since we got him. He's a mobile guy. He sees the ice pretty well. He can make that first pass to help us get out of our end zone. He joins the rush. He's really good on the power‑play. He can really shoot the puck from the blueline. He provides all those things for our team.
Justin is a good player. That's one of the reasons why we acquired him. Our people felt as though he would help us play the type of game we're trying to play here in Pittsburgh, and he's done that since we've acquired him.

Q. There's been a lot of discussion about the Callahan hit on Letang. There's been much less discussion of the Palat hit on Dumoulin. Can you comment on that. Also the Kunitz hit on Johnson.
COACH SULLIVAN: You know what, with all due respect, I'm not going to comment on any of the hits. For me it's hockey. We're just going to play the game. We're going to let the referees do their job, let the league do their job, and we're just going to focus on playing the game.
I feel strongly about that. I don't mean to dodge your question, but I think it's really important that our club focuses on playing hockey.
There are two teams out there that are playing emotional games. They're passionate. They're trying to win. We're all doing everything in our power to try to win the hockey game.
We're going to play. We're going to let the referees do their job. We're going to let the league do their job.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you for attending the conference today.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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