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May 31, 2016

Mike Sullivan

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: Practice Day


Q. (No microphone.)
COACH SULLIVAN: Well, I think sometimes we forget how young he is with the role we've put him in on our team. He's been a top core defenseman for us all season long. He's played some really important minutes for us in key situations, he's still a young kid.
He's always dealt with some tough injuries over the last couple years, but he's a determined guy. He works extremely hard. He's got a tremendous work ethic. He's a terrific team guy. He brings a lot to our team.
With some of the challenges he's overcome, to contribute the way he has at this point in the season, I can't say enough about his effort and just his willpower to overcome those challenges.

Q. (No microphone.)
COACH SULLIVAN: It doesn't surprise me that these guys score big goals. They're good players. That's why they're here. They play hard. They play the game the right way. I think they both bring a tremendous amount of speed to our team. They've helped us win games here, not just in the post‑season, but down the stretch in the regular season.
All of the young guys that have come up I think have done a really good job becoming part of this group and helping this team become a team.

Q. Do you have an update on Bryan Rust?
COACH SULLIVAN: He's still being evaluated and he's day‑to‑day.

Q. Does a win last night, does this team need that to start a series?
COACH SULLIVAN: I don't know if it needs it. Obviously, I think our team has a real clear understanding of how we need to play in order to give ourselves the best chance to win. We're trying to play to our strengths, just like other teams that we play against try to do the same.
I think our players have a clear understanding at this point. I think there's been enough evidence provided through their play that when we play the game a certain way, and speed is a critical element of it, that we're a pretty good hockey team.
It's nice to get that first win in the series, but certainly there's a lot of work to be done and I think our players are well aware of it.

Q. (Question regarding Sheary.)
COACH SULLIVAN: Well, I certainly have input into call‑ups. Ultimately the decision is always Jim Rutherford's. He's our manager and he makes that call. I think Jim does a real good job of utilizing the resources around him to try to help him make the best decision.
I did have some input into it. I think the fact that I had the opportunity to coach these guys in Wilkes‑Barre, see what they were able to accomplish in the 20‑something games that I was down there with them, certainly gave me a clearer indication of how I could utilize them and put them in positions to be successful. So when they did get the opportunity to play in the NHL, I could cast them in the right roles with the right line combinations.
I didn't have to go through the learning process because I watched these guys play for 20‑something games. I was able to see what they were able to accomplish at the American League level. I think that experience certainly helped me with utilizing those guys in the most optimum way.

Q. Before you got here, Sidney played a little with Phil Kessel. You put Conor Sheary with Sid, a relative unknown. It has worked great. Why do you like those two together on the same line?
COACH SULLIVAN: I think when you look at Conor's game, he's quick, he's elusive in tight space. He's got a high hockey IQ. He has really good hands. He has good offensive instincts. He can play that give‑and‑go game in tight space underneath the hashmarks. He sees the rush pretty well.
These are all areas of Sid's games that I think are his strengths. So to have a guy like Conor to play with him that allows him the opportunity to play that give‑and‑go game, maybe free up some space or create some space for Sid to make a play, in those types of situations, I think their skill sets are complementary.
You never know when you put guys together, will they succeed. Sometimes you think a line combination will work. Sometimes they don't and other times they do. We certainly speak as a coaching staff on a daily basis about our line combinations, which skill sets we think are complementary, who can help whom. We try to use our gut instincts to make the best decisions for our team.
Conor has played a fair amount with Sid over the course of the end of the season and into the post‑season. We really like what we've seen with that group.
I think Sundqvist is another guy that helps those guys as well. He goes to the net. He creates a lot of havoc by going to the net, opening up lanes. He's really good down underneath the hashmarks as far as winning puck battles and helping those guys keep the puck.
That's been an important line for us. They play in a lot of key situations. We've liked what we've seen so far.

Q. I believe the period of time between Rust taking the initial hit from Marleau and coming out for another shift was about seven minutes. Can you take us through a little bit of what the thought process was amongst the trainers and doctors and yourself to put him out for that second shift.
COACH SULLIVAN: The thought process? First of all, it's in the middle of the game. The coaches aren't really involved in that. We rely on the medical staff to take the necessary steps with our players. That's what they did.
I usually get information from our trainer on whether or not a player is available or not available throughout the course of a game.
They go through the necessary steps that they need to take with our player. I know that our medical staff does a terrific job as far as taking the right precautionary measures.
Our philosophy has always been the health of our athletes is first and foremost. Our guys take that very seriously. I think they do a terrific job. So we trust them, that they're going to do the right things for us, protect our athletes in the necessary way. We take their advice as far as how we utilize them.

Q. (Question regarding Sid's work ethic.)
COACH SULLIVAN: I've spoken to this point on a number of occasions. I don't think he's as good as he is by accident. As long as I've been associated with this league, I don't know that I've been around a player that has the same work ethic as Sid does as far as that insatiable appetite to just try to get better and be the best. I think that's why he's as good as he is.
Everybody sees his talent. There's a lot of talented guys out there. But I think his work ethic allows him to be the player that he is. It's impressive. I think it also sets a standard for our team when your captain and your top player brings a work ethic to the rink every day like he does. He certainly makes my job as the head coach a lot easier as far as demanding the type of standard we need to in order to be successful.

Q. Now that you've had a chance to see that hit, what is your opinion on the ruling?
COACH SULLIVAN: I don't really have an opinion on it. I shared my opinion last night. We're just going to play hockey. The league does their job, we're going to do our job. We're just going to play.

Q. How would you say your feelings about Matt Murray's evolved going into last night, his first time in a Final? How is your feeling about the way he approached this game and how it evolved through the game?
COACH SULLIVAN: I don't question his approach. He's provided so much evidence for us throughout the course of this post‑season that he can play and compete in a high‑stakes environment. We don't question it.
We think Matt gives us the timely saves we need to give the team a chance to win. He did that for us last night. He's done that for us throughout the course of the post‑season. He's a big reason why I think this team is still playing to this point.
I think our players have a lot of confidence in him. I think our players have a lot of confidence in all our goalies for that matter. We're a fortunate team that we have the guys that we have back there that we can call on to make those kinds of saves for us.

Q. If Bryan isn't able to go tomorrow, can Eric go back on that line? If he does, how would you evaluate his game?

Q. Yes.
COACH SULLIVAN: That's a lot of hypotheticals for me. Coaches don't really live in that world.
If he were to go back on that line, he's a pretty good player. Regardless of which line he plays on, Fehrsy has had the ability to adapt his game.
The one thing he does bring to the respective lines, he's another center iceman that can take faceoffs in the defensive zone. He has a real good awareness in the D zone. He's pretty strong on the wall. He brings all of those elements to that line that we choose to put him on.
We'll make decisions accordingly depending on who we think is available for our lineup. But hypotheticals is not the world that we live in.

Q. When some of your best penalty killers are taking penalties, do you get concerned?
COACH SULLIVAN: We don't want to take penalties just as a rule. But it hurts when our penalty killers that we rely on are in the penalty box.
But listen, they're trying to play hard. They're competing. They're trying to do everything they can to help this team win. That's a part of the game. We understand it. Regardless of who takes the penalties, I think we have enough depth in all of our positions that we have enough people that we can put on the ice in a penalty kill situation that we feel comfortable with.
Thank you.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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