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May 23, 2016

Jon Cooper

Tampa, Florida: Practice Day

Q. Coop, you were in this same spot a year ago, coming home for a Game 6 in the Eastern Conference Finals. What's the message you give to your team going into this game?
COACH COOPER: I think you just found that out. And a big message for us last night was we were in this position before last year, and how do we treat Game 5? I think, if there's one thing we have to have learned from last year is what happened in Game 6 in the Rangers series. You can't sit here and dictate or guarantee what the result's going to be, but our mindset going into the game has got to be a heck of a lot different, and our group is well aware of that.

Q. Do you think there was over confidence last year? What do you think the mindset -- what was wrong with it last year?
COACH COOPER: Well, we were -- I look back at last year, and we beat Detroit in Game 6, and then we came back, and a little bit on our heels in Game 7, and we were fortunate to pull it out. As we got a little bit more confidence in the series and we got to play the Rangers, I think we won such a big game in Game 5, I think the natural inclination was, oh, we're going home. We're going to close this out, especially the way we won Game 5, and they blew us out.
Then we had our tails between our legs and went back for Game 7 and really had to regroup to pull that one out.
That has to be the way we are this time. And I think you look at our first couple series, we've -- when it's been time to pull the team out, we rose to the occasion, and we're going to do that one more time.

Q. What is your message to the fans? They're acting like you've won something already. How do you balance their excitement with --
COACH COOPER: Actually, we saw this last year. With every round, it just gets bigger and bigger and bigger. It's quite remarkable because we've landed at 3:00 in the morning a couple of times, and there's been a hundred fans out there cheering us on.
The one thing we can't forget, we're not by ourselves in this. We have a huge group and a huge following here in Tampa that we really appreciate, and so any time they're out here, we make sure that the guys are high-fiving them and sticking with them because they stuck with us.

Q. Jon, how impressed have you been with, obviously, your penalty kill? Really good regular season and continues to be a good factor in this series. Why do you think so?
COACH COOPER: Well, Bonesy's done a heck of a job with our PK, but ultimately, it starts with goaltending. You need your guy back there to make the big save for you. But we've got a little chemistry going. Phil and Callahan had some chemistry, and Boyle and Vlad. I think the addition of Stralman has helped in this series.
It's like anything. Once the power play gets clicking with confidence, they tend to get on a role, but nobody gives the penalty kill credit for the exact same thing. If you look at some of the things in this series and the playoffs, a lot of really good things have happened after we've killed off a penalty. As I said before, penalties can give you a boost -- or power plays can give you a boost, but so can a penalty kill. They've done an unreal job so far.
Just think about Game 1, start the series off, have them kill off a five-minute major, and we've kind of taken off from there.

Q. Jon, Mike Sullivan didn't name a starter today. He said he'll do so tomorrow. Do you expect to see Fleury in Game 6?
COACH COOPER: That's such a trap question. I don't know. I guess in the back of my head, you think, if you were in that situation, what would you do? I don't know. I'll have to answer that question after this series is over what I would have done.

Q. Speaking of trap questions, I don't know if you on the plane, you probably didn't see Malkin saying they're going to bring it back to Pittsburgh. Typical confidence any team would have in that situation?
COACH COOPER: What's he supposed to say in that situation? We're done. We're just going down as a formality. Of course they're going to say they're going to win, and they should. They're a good team, a good, confident group, but we feel the same way.
But, look, you've got to win four, and we're a little closer to four than they are, but you've still got to get four, and that's all our group is thinking about is let's just get that fourth one.

Q. Kucherov's skill and consistency were on display last year on this stage, but have you seen his game take a bigger stride in the last year?
COACH COOPER: I can't sit here and -- he keeps climbing the ladder, and he keeps getting better. But what has really been remarkable for me this year in watching him is the timeliness of his game. So he's not scoring one goal in a 6-1 loss or the sixth goal in a 6-1 win. He's getting the game tier, game winner, sets up the biggest of the biggest goals, and that says a little bit about the type of player you are. And when you need him, he's the one ultimately, more often than not, that's there for you. I think that's the one thing that's remarkable about him.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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