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May 23, 2016

Ken Hitchcock

St. Louis, Missouri: Game Five

THE MODERATOR: Questions for coach.

Q. You were going to give us an update on your injured guys.
COACH HITCHCOCK: I want to make this right. We're going to dress the same lineup for warmup that we dressed the last game.
Next question.

Q. So does that mean Backes and Fabbri are game‑time decisions, see how they feel after warmup?
COACH HITCHCOCK: We're going to dress the same lineup for warmup that we did the last game. We had two extra forwards, one extra D. No changes. All those players are there. They'll dress for warmup and then we'll run a further evaluation after warmup. Same 23 guys are dressing.

Q. How can you describe the impact that Jay Bouwmeester is having for your club during these playoffs?
COACH HITCHCOCK: More and more in a positive direction from a defending standpoint.
Bo has been in the league a long time, but he hasn't played a lot of playoff games. It's unique for a player to be in that position. But he's gaining experience like a lot of other younger guys are.
Age not being relevant, he hasn't had a lot of playoff experience till the last couple years really. I think he's getting more and more comfortable with the temperature of the games as playoffs are going on.
I thought early on he was, like our team, trying to catch up to the speed of a team like Chicago, which knew how to play at that time, and the temperature to play at. As he got through that series, he's just gotten better and better at understanding what the games are like, how keeping it simple works.
I think that's why he's played better and better as each series has gone on, quite frankly.

Q. Rare for a 40‑point guy to become a defensive specialist. How has he handled that adjustment?
COACH HITCHCOCK: Well, when he was really a point‑producing player, because in the 1‑3‑1 on the power play, where he played a lot, he played as a forward, not as a defenseman. He got a lot of points playing as a slot player, not as a defenseman on the backdoor or up top.
It was a little bit misleading, quite frankly, because he's got a great wrist shot, and he was able to play in the middle of the ice. There aren't any teams that do that anymore.
But that's, quite frankly, where he had all those numbers in Florida, was 'cause he basically played as a forward there.
I think he's evolved into kind of a mobile defending defenseman where he doesn't do it with physical play, he does it with positional play, and he does it by being able to lug the puck out of our zone.
We don't even need him to pass the puck. He can carry it out of our zone. He's evolved. He found, I think, a nice niche here, found a nice role with Pietra there.

Q. There's so much talk about their power play coming into the series. How happy are you with your special teams overall, your PK specifically?
COACH HITCHCOCK: Well, it's a challenge. Can't take your foot off the gas for one second. I think what we've been able to do, one thing I've been happy about, we've been able to get our clears. We've been able to get the puck down the ice and made them have to come 200 feet, which has helped us a lot.
When you have a power play that's that dynamic, when you get stuck in your zone, you're on the bench, you can just feel the goal coming. We've been able to negate that with getting the puck down the ice.
Even in saying that, as good as we've been in clears, they still have the ability, guys like Brent and that can flag down pucks in the air, knock them down with a stick, anticipate and glove them down.
But we've been able to get way more clears in this series than we did against, say, Dallas or Chicago, which I think has negated the zone time that normally their power play gets used to.
Sometimes during the regular season, we spent the whole two minutes in our own zone. We've been able to negate that this tournament so far.

Q. Hitch, you seem to be the type of coach who kind of likes this verbal, I guess, jousting, being able to relay a message in a news conference. When you see a situation where you're saying certain things, their coach is kind of taking them and kind of going back at you, do you enjoy that? Do you enjoy this part of the playoff series? Is it a way to get under other coach's skin to some degree?
COACH HITCHCOCK: The answer, do I enjoy it, is yes. Quite frankly, what you guys report, it's really boring. We got to have some fun, too. I find it fun.
Pete and I know each other very well. We were together in Slovakia. We survived Bratislava together. We know each other.
Sending you folks on a wild goose chase is fun sometimes. We got to enjoy it, too. It just can't be stress and pressure 24 hours a day. There's got to be some fun in it for us.
I like it. I like the atmosphere. I like the focal point of it. Quite frankly, I like anything that takes away from the focus on the players so that they can just play hockey.
I think sometimes when there's so much discussion back and forth and there's so many outlets that need stories, it can become overwhelming to the players. Anytime I can get people chasing down a different path, I try to do it. It's fun.

Q. This will be a boring question, but an important one.
COACH HITCHCOCK: That's what ESPN does.

Q. There you go. How have your thoughts changed over the years, if at all, on these long series, sleeping patterns, travel for your players? In other words, do you believe in going after the game and making it up when you get there or do you like being at home, going the next day? Do you think it matters?
COACH HITCHCOCK: Yeah, I think it matters a lot. I'm not happy that I don't get to go on the ice today. The players would prefer that I just get lost today. But it's what the players need. So whether it's an optional practice, whether it's a certain amount of sleep, whether it's the length of your meetings...
You know what's really changed for us, used to just come in and have a meeting, you used to decide which way you were going to go. We have a coaching staff, we have people on our coaching staff who their job is to just read the players. So they read the players, whether they're ready to listen. They already know the temperature of the room before I go and have a meeting.
For instance, we knew the temperature yesterday in the room. We knew what type of meeting to have ahead of time, so the things that we wanted to do yesterday we stopped doing, we didn't do. It's, When are they ready to listen? What is their energy like? That balance is really, really important.
I think the other thing, from a player standpoint, the physical exertion that goes on in the playoffs now and the type of game that's being played in the NHL now, requires so much energy, so much more energy than before, I think you really have to know what your team feels like physically the next day.
If they're hurting and they don't feel well physically, they're in no position to listen. You got to know that going ahead.
So there's a lot of gauging that goes on well before you even start talking or dealing with the players.

Q. When did you notice Troy Brouwer stepping up as a leader in your dressing room? Was it an immediate impact or...
COACH HITCHCOCK: It was early in the season when he told me to shut up. He was on the team for a month. I think my meetings were a little bit too long. He told me it would be best if I kept them a little briefer. So I knew he had a bite on the team right away.
It didn't take him long to get comfortable with us, which is great. Dialogue between coaches and leaders is strong here, two ways. We wanted his conscience to come out. We tried to put him in a comfortable position. It was a month into the season where he really spoke up in a positive way.
For me, players like Brodziak, Brouwer, Pete has some on his own team, they're your best allies in the off days. During the regular season, especially during playoffs, they're the guys that can tell you where the team's at, what you should be doing. They allow us to stay a step ahead of the curve.
That's where guys like those veteran players really, really help you, is on the off days, so you're not taking energy away from the group, you're adding to it. That's where Troy is excellent.
He's had that experience of going to the end. That's a valuable experience. He's still got enough game that he can help you during the competition. But, man, those guys are really a help when you're on the off days.

Q. Hitch, not knowing if you have to make any changes at forward tonight, would it be your preference to keep that fourth line together if it's possible, the way they're playing?
COACH HITCHCOCK: Yeah, yeah, if we could keep it together, we would. If we've got to make changes, we'll make changes. That's why we're dressing 23. We have to take this to the end of the day before we can throw it in, put the blender in.
That line has been good. We'd like to call it a third line if we can get cooperation from the media. We're going to keep our third line together.
Thank you.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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