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May 18, 2016

Mike Sullivan

Tampa, Florida: Game Three

Pittsburgh – 4
Tampa – 2

Q. What more can you say about the Hagelin, Kessel, Bonino line about the way they stepped up in the second and early in the third to get you the two-goal lead?
COACH SULLIVAN: They've been so good for us for a long time now. They've established a nice chemistry. I think, when we have the balance throughout our lineup like we do, I think it really presents some matchup difficulties for our opponents. I've said that on a number of occasions throughout the course of the playoffs.
You know, I think Bones' line, there's a lot of threats on that line, his speed. Phil obviously has a great shot. Bones is a real good playmaker, and Haggy brings so much to that -- to the other two guys. They seem to complement each other very well. But there's no question they've got some huge goals for us throughout the course of this playoffs.

Q. Mike, Geno at this point seems like kind of a wild card that you can plug in, whether it's with Sid or really any of the combos. Is that the ultimate blessing for you, or is that kind of an unenviable challenge, just logistically how you handle it?
COACH SULLIVAN: Well, I think Geno is the type of player that, regardless of who we put him with on a line, it's a dangerous line because he's such a threat individually. So we've used different people with him. You know, I've used him with Sid on occasion together situationally. To have the flexibility or the versatility on the bench to be able to do those kinds of things, I think there are probably a lot of coaches in the league that would want to have that.
So for us to have that is, I think, a benefit. I think it makes our team harder to play against. And certainly, we've tried to move him around with different people in order to create that offensive spark throughout the course of the game. And like I said, we do it a lot situationally. But he's such a dangerous player in and of himself, I think he presents a challenge for our opponents.

Q. Coach, not only the offensive production from that line, but how about just the ability to block some shots? Bonino closing in on Palat. What does that mean when you're getting that kind of production from those guys?
COACH SULLIVAN: They're a responsible line at both ends. Bones and Haggy obviously kill penalties. They have great awareness defensively. I think Phil's game has come a long way away from the puck, as far as his commitment to playing defense.
The goal we get right at the end of the second period, he makes a great defensive play in that high ice before the burst of speed down the wall that makes the play.
So I think they're a line that we have a comfort level with. You know, I think Tampa Bay wanted that matchup with Johnson's line against that line, and the fact that they're as responsible as they are in the defensive zone gives our bench a comfort level that we're not afraid of that matchup. You know, they can play against anybody.
And the upside of it is they're an offensive threat. So when they play against offensive players and they have the puck, they force offensive players to have to play defense, and I think that helps us as a team.

Q. Mike, Patric Hornqvist didn't record a shift for the last 7:02. It looked like he was shaken up blocking a shot. Any status on him?
COACH SULLIVAN: I have not -- I don't have definitive status on him. He did leave the bench. So we'll probably know more tomorrow. So, yeah, I don't have any updates for you at this point.

Q. Did you have any impact or input in the conversation with Jim to help bring Hagelin here earlier this year?
COACH SULLIVAN: Well, certainly, we all had input into those personnel decisions. Since I've been here, Jim is really good about trying to utilize all the resources around him to try to help him make the best decision. So if any of us have knowledge of players, we certainly try to share that so that he can make the best decisions for the organization.
Obviously, I had a prior relationship with Haggy. Knew him pretty well as a player and as a person. I share that information with Jim, but ultimately, Jim's the guy that makes that call.

Q. Mike, in regards to Hagelin, you've talked about the maturity in his game in the past, and I'm curious, when you had him in New York, could he have played in an offensive role the way he's -- on an offensive line like this, like he's doing now? Or is that the maturity in his game that he's gotten that offensive instinct, I guess?
COACH SULLIVAN: No, when I coached him in New York, we played him with top players. You know, he played in the top six. And one of the things that -- when I was there, that we liked about him, we thought his hockey sense was good enough that he could play with the top players and could think the game well enough that he could make plays with them.
So I think his speed jumps out at everybody. That's -- obviously, his ultimate competitive advantage is his foot speed. He chases pucks down and forces turnovers and creates a lot of opportunity for his line through that foot speed, but what I really have always liked about him is he has -- his hockey sense is very underrated, and that's, in my opinion, what allows him to play with top players is not only when he forces turnovers or chases a puck down, he has the hockey sense and the vision and the awareness to make that next play. That's so important to creating an opportunity for his line.
So I saw that early on when I coached him back then. I knew he would bring that to our team here, and he has.

Q. The four-on-three goal, you had Justin Schultz's goal there with Kris in the penalty box. What led you to want to use Justin in that unique circumstance?
COACH SULLIVAN: He has very good poise up top along the blue line, and he's got a great shot. So it's a one-time threat on that back side, and with Tanger in the penalty box, obviously, we felt as though he was the next best guy tonight to put in that situation.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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