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May 15, 2016

Jon Cooper

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: Practice Day

Q. Jon, I know you answered the question yesterday, but this is for television purposes since it was more radio. On Callahan, the importance of having him in Game 2.
COACH COOPER: Well, especially in the absence of our captain not being with us or being able to play, to have somebody of Callahan's leadership, he's really kind of taken over the reins there in the absence of Steven. And I think you look at some of the guys we've brought in, the Callahans, the Boyles, I know Stralman is out, but he's getting closer and closer, but it really added to the leadership in our room. It helped us take the extra -- I guess that next step last year, and you can't have enough of Ryan Callahan. It's just heart, passion.
I think the -- he served a pretty severe penalty in a five-minute major that we had to kill off, and I think that was -- that was the penalty. But we're sure glad that he's going to be available for Game 2.

Q. How much progress has Bishop made, and have you ruled him out for Game 2?
COACH COOPER: Haven't ruled him out. Day-to-day. Nothing has changed there, but he's getting better with each day, and it's encouraging to say.

Q. I know everybody is a definite until they aren't, but how good does Stralman look compared to where he was before?
COACH COOPER: Stralman is looking good. He's getting closer. Now we're getting to the point where he is -- Stralman is definitely day-to-day now, and that's great news because he is extremely important player on our team. So we'll just -- it's kind of going to be all to Strals here now, how he's feeling. I haven't talked to him since practice ended. But it's been encouraging to watch him play, and you're looking at him right now at practice, you wouldn't even think he was hurt. He's not favoring anything, so it's a really good sign.

Q. When guys on the opposing team who are key players like Malkin and Crosby who are in a dry spell, eight games for Sidney, six games for Malkin without a goal, does that factor into how you game plan them, or it's just one of those things and that's just the way it is?
COACH COOPER: Well, I don't know how dry they are. Doesn't Crosby have 10 points in the Playoffs, 11 points in the Playoffs? That's probably a lot more than of other guys that are playing the Playoffs right now. I think Sidney's dry spell is most players' hot spell. But I think we've got to treat these players -- you have to respect them, and that's the one thing our guys do. They respect all these guys, but they don't fear them.
You have to look at the last round, we had to run into John Tavares, and I put him in the exact same class as those guys. You're just hoping to contain these guys, neutralize them a little bit. If you're fortunate enough to stop them, that's a really good sign for your team. It doesn't mean you're going to win, but it really gives you a better chance. So you've just got to look at the tendencies of the players, where they like pucks, where they don't, how they play, and work to neutralize that.
But they're elite players for a reason, and every game you go without having them on the score sheet, it gives you a little bit better chance to win.

Q. You've talked in the past about how Boyle and Callahan and Stralman were key guys. The reason you acquired them were for moments like this. What makes them so difficult to play against in the Playoffs, do you think?
COACH COOPER: Well, I think -- well, a part of what they do, they've been there. They play -- I think any time -- guys have different assets, and any time -- when games are elevated, but players that are not afraid to go anywhere on the ice, that's what those guys can do well. And when you're not afraid to go to the front of the net, you're not afraid to go battle in a corner, you're not afraid to open-ice hit, you're not afraid to back-check hard, it can wear on other teams knowing that -- because everybody knows where everybody is on the ice, who's on the ice. And the more guys you have that kind of have no fear anywhere on the ice, which all those guys do, it really helps.

Q. You said it usually takes a game or two to usually build up a hatred between two teams. Did Game 1, with all the hits get you there? And how much as a coach do you address that aspect of the game?
COACH COOPER: Well, it's kind of followed us around in this Playoffs, to be honest. I still think that there was a lot of, I guess, drama in that game with Bish going down, Johnny going down, Letang and Dumoulin and stuff like that. But I didn't find it to be near the -- I don't know what word I'm looking for, tenacious, as it was the Detroit series. Like those were a little bit more vicious series. The Islanders' series.
This has been -- guys are -- it's been a little bit more of a track meet of that's how this has gone. But eventually you know it's going to heat up.
That'll probably be the tamest one. May not have the guys land on the ice as much, but I would imagine as each game goes, you can see it's getting -- it's getting feisty at the end of the game. I'm sure it will carry over.

Q. Andrei Vasilevskiy has been up and down to the A a lot this year. There were points early in the year where you were calling him up just to get him playing time or sending him down to get him playing time, a lot of back and forth. One, how do you think that served him? And two, are you looking back at it and smiling now because you need him?
COACH COOPER: Well, the one thing when you've got Ben, and he's going to play -- you kind of circle that 60-game mark and say, okay, let's get him close to that, well, it's only leaving 22 left for Andrei. And one of the valuable things about the American League is you have that ability, especially for the young guys, to be able to send them back.
One thing we told Vasie early on was you're not being demoted, you're being -- this is part of learning, and the one thing for goaltenders is you need games, and the more games you can get, regardless of where they are, the better you're going to be. We just found even during the regular season, if there was a -- if Vasie was going to go 10 games, two weeks without playing, we had to find him games. And it's hard for a goaltender to be sharp if he's not going to play. So we took advantage of sending him to the American League, and every time he came up from the American League, he was outstanding for us. And I think that's really helped to get him more game reps for situations like we're in now.

Q. The fact that you haven't ruled Ben out for Game 2, whether he plays or not, how incredible is that that we're even talking about this considering what we saw on the ice the other night?
COACH COOPER: Well, if you were a glass-half-empty guy, you would have been sitting there thinking, oh, my gosh, we're going to have to kill off a five-minute major in the first couple minutes, not even realizing, oh, there might be a suspension after that. Bishop goes down and Johnson goes down. That was definitely glass half empty.
Glass half full, you get through the five minutes, you win the game, Bishop comes back, Johnny comes back. We're leaning a little bit more towards that.
Not sitting here saying Ben is going to play tomorrow. We'll have to evaluate that today and tomorrow, but did have a bleak scenario, start to it, and again, extremely important players to our team, and to be able to have them -- whether they're coming back tomorrow or very soon, we need that, especially when you're in the Conference Finals.

Q. The Playoffs obviously are the most fun, and I have to imagine the toughest time if you're an injured player. Have you seen any signs from Steven Stamkos of how much he's wearing this or how hard it is for him not to play for you guys right now?
COACH COOPER: Because the Playoffs have been a month old, you're kind of -- early on he wasn't traveling with us at all, and he -- now you're slowly seeing him -- wasn't on the ice, and then he's on the ice with a red jersey and now he doesn't have the red jersey any longer.
I think there was a point where there was so much uncertainty, it was kind of accepted that he wasn't being able to play. But now you're getting to a point where we're kind of in that holding pattern type, and he's feeling good because he's been on the ice so much more, now he's getting himself back into game shape and in these situations.
I think there is a little bit to him that he feels fine, and it's not like he's coming back from a broken bone, for instance, a Stralman situation where it's a pain tolerance thing. And I think that's probably what's a little bit frustrating for him, because he's got to wait for other people to tell him he can play. He's not the one making the decision. I think that's what's really tough as opposed to what happens to other players when they're injured.
But he's been unreal to have around. I think that's really helped us. Even though he hasn't been able to play, just having his presence around with the guys, because he's such a well-liked teammate, that's really helped us. It would help us even more if he was able to get back in. But I'm sure it's been tough on him for sure.

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