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June 3, 2016

Mike Sullivan

San Jose, California: Practice Day


Q. Coach, having not played here in a couple of months out west, how might it impact the team?
COACH SULLIVAN: Well, we're dealing with the same challenges that San Jose's dealing with. I think the fact that we have the extra day in between is certainly helpful. We're trying to keep our guys on the same time schedule from a routine standpoint.
I think our strength and conditioning guys, our medical staff, does a great job as far as making sure that we do everything within our power to help them nutritionally and otherwise so that they can recover properly and fuel their bodies the right way.
I think we're doing everything within our power to try to meet that challenge.

Q. Mike, is any of this becoming a distraction? You guys are able to have fun and keep it loose, but all this, does it become a problem at all?
COACH SULLIVAN: I don't think so. I think our players are accustomed to it at this point. I think we've talked to them throughout this post‑season about making sure that we stay focused and not allow any of the noise surrounding our team to have an impact on our mindset or our focus that's necessary to have success.
I always think it starts with our leadership group. They lead the charge there. I think they do a terrific job.

Q. Mike, can you talk about when you first were coaching, what you might have wanted from Phil Kessel? He's playing so great.
COACH SULLIVAN: Well, we've tried to challenge Phil, like we do all of our players, to become a more complete player. At least based on my experience in coaching in this league, when you're coaching the top players, the offensive players that have great offensive instincts, usually the conversations revolve around playing away from the puck and the decisions they make with the puck.
So Phil is no different. We've had a number of conversations on trying to help him improve in areas of his game. To his credit, he's been very receptive. I think he's really worked at it. I think we're all seeing the rewards of his work right now.
I think he's playing the right way. He's been much better on the boards. I think his determination to play away from the puck and defend in our end zone is much improved. That's a credit to him.
He's been really receptive to the message that the coaching staff has been trying to preach to him this year. He's made big improvements.

Q. Looks like you had Chris Kunitz working on the first power play unit there. What does he offer instead of Patric Hornqvist?
COACH SULLIVAN: They're similar guys. One is a right‑handed shot, one is a left‑handed shot. We actually used both of those guys last game on the power play. Sometimes the first unit gets extended time. Both Horny and Kuny play hard minutes. They're the guys helping them retrieve pucks, they play in front of the net, they're taking cross checks. They're hard minutes they play.
To have the ability to use both of them, I think it helps us. It also adds a little bit of a different wrinkle. One is a left‑handed shot, one is a right‑handed shot. It can change some of the looks that we're trying to show.

Q. Two one‑goal games. Would you like to see more pucks past Jones?
COACH SULLIVAN: I really think our team is playing the game the right way right now. I think we're doing the right things. He's made some timely saves for them.
I think any time you're trying to score goals, it's about trying to get pucks to the net, trying to get people to the net, trying to make it difficult on the opponent's goaltender by impeding the sight lines, limiting the mobility by having people in the area.
We'll continue to work at that, try to get better at that. That's something that we've preached to our team all year long.
I think as you get deeper in the playoffs, it's that much more important because every team defends harder and their goaltenders are all good goalies. That, for me, is always part of the solution as far as trying to score goals, is just getting more pucks and more people to the net.

Q. There's a lot of talk before this series about San Jose's power play, how lethal it is. You haven't really allowed it to be a factor the first two games. Coming here to San Jose, how important is it to maintain that style?
COACH SULLIVAN: Well, it's critically important. Our team discipline has been really good. We've talked about that every day. That has to continue to be one of the focal points of our team, is making sure we play in between the whistles and we don't put ourselves in a position where we have to take a stick infraction because maybe we overstay a shift and we're tired.
For me, it always boils down to the details of the game, just paying attention to the details. If you do that, if we do that as a group, I think we can avoid some of the unnecessary or the avoidable penalties that sometimes end up hurting you.
So we need to continue to do that. We have a lot of respect for their power play. We know it's good. If our penalty kill is called upon, I think we've got to continue to do the things that our penalty kill has done well to make it difficult on their power play.

Q. When you played on the road in these playoffs, do you feel that Hagelin, Bonino, Kessel line has negated what should be an advantage for the home team? Why do you think that line has had such sustained success?
COACH SULLIVAN: I think when you look at the makeup of our lines, I've said this on a number of occasions, for me it's pick your poison. Any particular line on a given night might be the best line of our team depending on who's going, who's playing well.
One of the things that we really like about the makeup of our forward lines right now is the balance. We have threats on every line. I think that presents potential challenges for our opponents from a matchup standpoint. Someone is going to get a favorable matchup.
From that standpoint, I think whether we're at home or we're on the road, I think it makes it harder on our opponents because of that.
I think that Bones' line has been as good as it is for so long because it starts with their chemistry. They're feeling it right now. Their confidence is at an all‑time high. I think the longer they've been together, they've learned each other's tendencies, they know how to play to their strengths.
I think Bones is a really smart center iceman that puts the guys on his flanks in great positions to do what they do best: use their speed, use their shot, get pucks to the net. For all those reasons, I think that line has had success.

Q. You guys really have had that balanced scoring throughout the playoffs, Geno specifically. Do you feel like he needed to or has changed his mindset or his game in any way to sort of fit into that concept?
COACH SULLIVAN: Yeah, I think he has. I think Geno's adapted. I give him a lot of credit for that. I think because of that, we've become a team. It's not just about one or two or three guys that help us win every night.
I think what's allowed this team to have the success that it's enjoyed the last few months is just it seems like every night different people step up and make big plays for us at key times. Sometimes it's an overtime goal or a big goal, or sometimes it's a great penalty kill or a one faceoff or a blocked shot.
It's both big plays, but also subtle plays that help us become more difficult to play against and help our team win.
I think Geno has done a great job just adapting to our team game, and adapting his game to how this team is playing right now. He's a really talented player. He has the ability to play a lot of different ways. He can beat you with speed. He can beat you with skill. He's got a great shot. He can play underneath the hashmarks and play a grind game because he's big and strong.
He has the ability to generate offense a number of different ways. Depending on who we use on his line with his linemates, he has the ability to adapt. I think he's done a terrific job there.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks, coach.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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