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June 1, 2016

Mike Sullivan

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: Game Two

THE MODERATOR: Questions for coach.

Q. Evgeni Malkin has been scoring a decent amount, but he's got one goal in his last 13 games. How do you feel about his game right now?
COACH SULLIVAN: I think Geno is playing well for us. He's generating scoring chances. That's the thing we watch most is his scoring chance involvement, his primary chances himself. He's been involved in a fair number of chances, both primary and secondary, over the last two series.
We feel real comfortable with his game. We know it's a matter of time before he scores.

Q. What is the latest on Bryan Rust? Do you anticipate him being available for tonight?
COACH SULLIVAN: Bryan, he obviously skated this morning. He'll be a game‑time decision.

Q. Chris Kunitz was quiet to start the post‑season, but came alive in the last five against Tampa. What changed for him?
COACH SULLIVAN: I think he's just been more proactive as far as his skating and forcing the play in all three zones. I think when Chris is at his best, he's real difficult to play against. He brings an element of nastiness to his game, for lack of a better term.
He can get in on the forecheck. He's got a physical presence to his game. He really creates havoc. He's hard to play against. That's when he's at his best.
I think certainly the last series and Game1 here, we think he's really done a great job as far as forcing opponents to have to make plays under pressure. He creates a lot of turnovers.
When he has the puck, he has the ability to make plays. For us, that's when he's at his best. He's been really doing that the last couple series.

Q. Mike, I know you have more important things to worry about, but have you indulged yourself in the Nick Bonino Punjabi goal call at all? What do you think of those?
COACH SULLIVAN: We think they're great. We threw them on the game review for our guys to listen to. They got a kick out of it.
It's entertaining, that's for sure. I hope we hear a few more of those.

Q. What have you liked about Justin Schultz's game? How did you make sure he was integrated properly in the lineup?
COACH SULLIVAN: Well, we like his mobility. We like how quick he gets back to pucks. He has the ability to make that first pass, help us get out of the end zone. He can join the rush. He's real good as far as that fourth man on the attack. He has good offensive instincts. He's good on the blueline.
What we tried to do since we got him was try to look at his strengths and try to put him in positions where he can play to his strengths. I've said this all along, we try to look at all of our players for what they can do and not necessarily what they can't. We try to put them into positions where they can play to their strengths.
I think he's part of a defense core here where we're trying to use him situationally so he can play to those strengths. He's done a great job for us when he's been in our lineup both on the power play and five‑on‑five. But mostly his puck‑moving ability, his play‑making ability and his offensive instincts on the blueline is really what he brings to our team.

Q. Game1, the Bonino line ended up against the Thornton line more than Sid's or other lines. What did you like about the matchup going in and how it worked out?
COACH SULLIVAN: We have a comfort level that we can play any of our lines against any opponent's lines. The strength of our team throughout the course of this playoffs has been the balance at the forward group that we have. We think we have guys on each line that have awareness at both ends of the rink. So we really like that balance. I think it makes us more difficult to play against.
We chose to use Bones a fair amount against Pavelski's line and Thornton's line because we think their line has awareness at both ends of the rink.
I think when you have offensive people that play against other team's offensive people, the benefit of that is when they have the puck, they force those guys to have to play defense. They're threats to score.
That's one of the things we like about Bones' line. Bones and Haggy are penalty killers for us. They have very good defensive strengths, defensive skill sets. They have great awareness. They have good sticks. Bones is very good down low in the D zone.
There's a lot that we like about that line. But for me, one of the best things is, if they do play against other team's top lines, is they have that offensive threat where they're going to have to force our opponent's offensive players to have to defend because they're a scoring threat.

Q. Bryan Rust scored a number of big goals for you lately. Did you see the skill immediately with him or is it partially coming in now because a goal here and there breeds confidence in a guy?
COACH SULLIVAN: I think what we see with Rusty is just his skating ability, his speed, his tenacity on the puck, his compete level. He's got a sneaky shot. He can shoot the puck.
When you think of those attributes, I think it all adds up to someone that has the potential to score. He scored a few goals here throughout the course of the post‑season. I think his confidence is probably at an all‑time high. That helps.
But certainly he's a guy that we have viewed all season long as someone that can help us generate offense. Whether he's scoring himself or he's creating opportunities for his linemates through his foot speed, tenacity, forcing turnovers and things of that nature. His compete level, his willingness to go to the net. When you go to the net, good things usually happen. He scores a goal in the last game because he goes to the net.
So it doesn't surprise me that he scored through this post‑season. I think the fact that his confidence is at an all‑time high probably certainly helps him.

Q. Mike, your time in Chicago working with young players there, was that a skill set that you wanted to expand on? Was it something that you had to get better at being a teacher? Is that something sort of was always part of your repertoire? How does that carry over into what you accomplished with your young players this year?
COACH SULLIVAN: I think we can always get better at our craft, at what we do. As a coach, I think you're always trying to grow and improve on how you interact with your players, the vocabulary that you use, the use of the video. We're trying to use every means within our power to try to reach players. We're trying to inspire them. We're trying to help them learn through their experience.
That experience of being a player development coach gives me a little bit more perspective. The one thing that really jumped out at me when I did that role for the Hawks last year is I was watching, for the most part, college hockey and junior hockey, the players were younger.
What really jumped out at me was how good the NHL players are. I've been used to working with NHL players for so long. I think sometimes we take for granted at the NHL level how good these players are, how polished their games are.
When I had the opportunity to see some different levels of hockey, the USHL Division I college hockey, those different levels, I think it really gives you perspective on where players come from and the process that they go through to get to this level.
So I think that really helped me as far as opening my eyes, just the development process in general. And just being patient with players because, you know, it's hard sometimes, we want players to be at their best, we see an upside to certain players, we want it to happen overnight. In my experience from being around players, is it usually doesn't happen that way. Usually it's a process that players go through. Sometimes it's faster or slower depending on the individual.
But I think for me the key takeaway was I think patience serves you well because there's a lot of real good players that are young. If you give them time and you give them opportunity and you put them in the right environment, I think these guys can blossom into real good players.
Thank you.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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