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May 24, 2016

Ken Hitchcock

San Jose, California: Practice Day

Q. You've talked a lot about the spirit of this team over the course of the season. How much will that spirit play?
COACH HITCHCOCK: I don't think anybody can question our spirit. It's been there since the start of playoffs. We need to play better. We need to be less anxious defensively. I said that last night.
The difference between home and away is that we're too anxious defensively. We're pouring numbers in checking‑wise when we don't need the numbers. It's what's causing us to get odd‑man rushes against, getting beat down low in our own zone.
If we can just feel comfortable in calming that down and continue with the same effort, I like our chances of getting an opportunity to bring it back for Game 7.
For whatever reason, we pour more numbers in either on the forecheck or in the neutral zone or in our own zone, and it causes us problems. Guys, they're amped up. They're pretty emotional. Sometimes when you get pucks staring, you get caught.
That's what happened yesterday. We got caught even amped up killing penalties. We gave up two power‑play goals because we were just overly aggressive. We gave up some three‑on‑three scoring chances because we were overly aggressive.
If we can calm that down a little bit, be a little bit more patient, which is what I think we are on the road defensively, that's where the patience is coming in. If we can have that same attitude here the next couple of games, I like our chances.

Q. Was it guys making a wrong read?
COACH HITCHCOCK: It's just trying to help too quick. It's natural. Sometimes you get away with it, sometimes you don't.
We played very well against Chicago in Game 7, but we still got caught four times in the first period, the same thing. It's a very emotional time for everybody. It's a very emotional game, especially when you're playing with teams like we played in the last three series where they got a lot of good players, good forwards. They put a lot of pressure on you.
I think if we can just relax a little bit more, let the person at the puck do his job, we're going to be okay.

Q. Since everybody has to contribute, how important is it for you to have Vladimir get on the point sheet?
COACH HITCHCOCK: You're going to write a story tomorrow (laughter)?
What happens with goal‑scorers when they get frustrated is they look to hit home runs. We need him just to act like a worker. I know that's a funny thing to say, but he's looking for the home run.
The guy he's playing against did the same thing to Foley and did the same thing to Forsberg. You can't look for home runs. They're not there. You just got to stay in the program and stay with it a little bit longer and trust your work.
It's like anything else, they feel that anxiety to try and score and help the team, but instead of getting further away from the puck, it's get closer to the puck.
What he's doing is he's looking to try to catch fast breaks, he's looking to catch the other team napping. But when you play against guys like Vlasic, you're not going to catch him napping. He's just got to feel comfortable playing within the system, playing within the framework. At the end of the day he'll be fine.
Maybe he doesn't score the next game, but if he plays a good team game, then probably he's going to allow other people to score.
I think it's a natural tendency with younger players who have this heightened sense of urgency to do what they do well, which for him is score goals. He's gotten too far away from the play. He's got himself too stretched out. We just need him to come back to the puck a little bit more.

Q. This is a team that has won two elimination Game 7s. How better prepared are you now in that situation than you were entering the playoffs?
COACH HITCHCOCK: I think it's patience and positioning. When you're patient in your positioning offensively and defensively, then the game seems to come to you a little bit better.
I think when you get amped up and you're trying to hit the home run early, you're giving up odd‑man rushes and stuff like that.
To me, what we've learned over time is that the game is a two‑and‑a‑half‑hour game, it's 60 minutes, it's a long evening. If we play it like a long evening, good things are going to happen.
It took us 53 minutes to get Chicago to crack. I said this last night. If we extend this game as a one‑goal game either way long into the night, I like our chances. But you don't want to get cranked up too early and then start giving up a bunch of scoring chances or trading chances because it usually doesn't work for the visiting team if you're just trading score chances.

Q. (No microphone.)
COACH HITCHCOCK: I don't like that 'plays better'. We did so many things well yesterday, but we were over‑anxious. We've been guilty of that a little bit at home. If you want to blame us for one thing, it's that we've been over‑amped defensively. We've gotten puck staring and really cranked up to play physical. That's been our demise a little bit.
I don't think we've had any bigger effort on the road. I think we just had better continual structure, which has allowed us to put the other team in a vulnerable position.
We put ourselves in a vulnerable position yesterday by chasing too many one‑on‑ones, trying to pour more numbers in. It hurt us.

Q. Is that what led to some of the penalties yesterday?

Q. Who is your goaltender?
COACH HITCHCOCK: Brian is going to play tomorrow.

Q. What is the strategy on that?
COACH HITCHCOCK: It's his turn.

Q. You're going back and forth from now on?
COACH HITCHCOCK: It's his turn for Game 6.

Q. You had a jolt when you went to Allen. Can you get a jolt when you go back to somebody?
COACH HITCHCOCK: We needed a jolt to get back in the series. We got it. Like I said last night, the third goal was a killer emotionally for us. The story that's untold is that we had the lead, then had the two odd‑man rushes. We could have put it away and we didn't.
We allowed the game to stay out there. Ours players knew that. They were upset on the bench not scoring. Then they came back and scored the power‑play goal. The third goal was the emotional drainer for us, not the fourth one.
I just feel for me, like, Brian was the guy. We needed the jolt from Jake, we got it to get back into the series. Unfortunately we didn't get the win yesterday. But this has been Brian's playoffs. We'd like him to finish the job.

Q. Fatigue seemed to be a factor with Brian. Do you think a couple days off have done him well?
COACH HITCHCOCK: Yeah. Well, it's been a mental drain. For his career, this is the first time he's gone through this. I think it allowed him to reset. I think he's going to be great tomorrow.

Q. Their goalie is good. In my opinion, I think you should shoot more slapshots. Do you sense that?
COACH HITCHCOCK: I think we scored enough goals yesterday and the game before to win. I think we scored enough goals to win yesterday. I think where we got dinged was the two goals we gave up on the power play, they were hurters. But we scored enough goals and created enough scoring chances yesterday. I think what both teams, when they're under forechecking pressure, struggle. We've taken turns going at each other from that pressure standpoint.
Yesterday was more us early, then them later. Then it was more us all the time in Game4. So hopefully we can keep that up.

Q. Even though you're down 3‑2, because you're a competitor, a good team, is there an element of fun and excitement to where you are right now?
COACH HITCHCOCK: I'm not finding the fun in it right now. If you guys think I can find it, give me some suggestions. I'm finding the fun in the competition. I find it not fun in the off days, though.
Like the competition is the actual fun part, the game day. The off day, you're just grinding, watching video, trying to find solutions. I find the off days really wearing, in a good way, but very wearing on you, because you're spending so many hours trying to help your players.

Q. Gunnarsson said this is a team that never gives up.
COACH HITCHCOCK: I think we have a resilient personality brought on by the season that we've had. I would expect nothing less, that we're going to put our A game out there. I think our A game hopefully is good enough.
Thank you.

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