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May 12, 2017

Mike Sullivan

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania - Practice Day

Q. Mike, what did you like so much about what you guys did in Game 7 in terms of making it transferable to Game 1? How do you continue doing that same stuff?
MIKE SULLIVAN: I just think it starts with an attitude. It's an attitude. It's a mindset. It's a compete level. That's what I really liked about our guys in Game 7. They were a determined group. I thought we were playing on our toes. It didn't matter whether we had a lead or we didn't have a lead, we were playing the game the right way.

Certainly, in the third period, when we did have a lead, we didn't sit back on it. We kept working to get the next goal. We just kept trying to do it the right way.

But I really liked our mindset of just playing hard, being competitive, and playing on our toes.

Q. Just some personnel stuff. Didn't get a chance to ask you after Game 7. Is there any sort of situation with Hagelin and Kuhnhackl, or were those coaches' decisions? Is there any update?
MIKE SULLIVAN: Kuhnhackl was a coach's decision. Haggy has been dealing with a lower body injury for some time. In our estimation, it was an opportunity for him to get a little bit more rest. We just -- he's trying to push through some injuries here, so that was more the case with him.

Trevor Daley is day to day with a lower body injury. And I think that's it, right?

Q. Mike, now that you have Matt Murray back in practice and available, do you still feel like you have a tough decision there, or has Marc-Andre done enough to solidify himself as the number one at this point?
MIKE SULLIVAN: I think Marc deserves the right to play. He's played so well for us, and he's really at the top of his game. But having said that, we have Matt who's a quality goaltender as well. Just like all of our players on our team, we can't predict how series unfold or what comes our way. So we just want to have as many healthy bodies as we can available to us to help us win.

Q. Coach, what are the biggest challenges the Senators present for you guys, and especially having Erik Karlsson back there and the minutes he plays, the challenges he presents as well?
MIKE SULLIVAN: Well, he's a very good player. He's one of the elite defensemen in the league. He plays a lot of minutes. He's a very good player, so we're obviously going to have to be aware when he's on the ice.

I think Ottawa's quietly had a real solid year for themselves. They're one of four teams still playing, and I think that that's an indication of how good a team they are. So we know it's going to be a big challenge. They play stingy defense. I think they have -- they've got a lot of structure to the game, and they have a balanced attack. I think it's hard to -- it's hard to survive this long in the playoffs if you don't. So we know this is going to be a big challenge. We know this is going to be a hard fought series. That certainly is our expectation, and we're going to have to be ready to bring our very best.

Q. Mike, I know you guys talk about not worrying about the other team too much. You had a scout team out there today replicating the 1-3-1. How much are you asking of those guys to model Ottawa, and I guess how much can you really learn in this kind of quick turnaround using that approach?
MIKE SULLIVAN: We wanted to give our players an opportunity to see it, practice it. We have some strategies that we'd like to utilize to try to have success and establishing the type of game that we want to play. So today was an opportunity to practice against it, and so we utilized the scout team to do so.

You know, certainly I think that's an aspect of Ottawa's game where they're very solid, and we're going to have to make sure that we make good decisions and we manage the puck appropriately between the blue lines.

Somebody's phone's ringing (laughter).

Q. Mike, when you guys began the playoffs without a player who held the role that Kris Letang has held for you, in terms of the situations you put him in, the minutes, and then you lose a guy like Daley, aside from just play, what do you tell your defensemen in those situations when you know you're going to be putting guys into the lineup that are going to have to be taking on responsibilities they hadn't?
MIKE SULLIVAN: Well, we tell them that we believe in them and that they're very capable guys. I think, fortunately for us, we have depth in all of our positions, and when players go down, we have a next man up mindset.

So we think all of these guys are capable of helping us win games. Certainly, the guys that you mentioned are difficult guys to replace. I think that I'm stating the obvious when I say that.

But certainly, we believe as a group we have a capable group back there that can step in and play a solid game for us, and that can help us continue to play and establish the type of game that we want to play that gives us the best chance to win games. And that's our expectation, and that's the -- I think that's the message that we send to our group.

So regardless of who's in our lineup, we know we have capable people. We know we have capable guys, and it's our challenge to find ways to win games regardless of who's in our lineup on any given night.

Q. (No microphone)?
MIKE SULLIVAN: Well, we have one-on-one conversations with our players all the time, and we try to be very direct as far as what our expectations are. We try to help each individual player with their respective games, whether it be simplifying their game or certain elements of their game, where we think we can help them.

Our whole coaching staff has individual conversations with these guys daily. We do it all year long. We believe it's important to communicate with our players so that they understand what the expectations are, and we try to help them in areas where we think we can help them improve or grow their overall games.

So that's our responsibility as their coaching staff. We take it very seriously, and we believe in that communication.

Q. Mike, this kind of dovetails off that, I guess. You switched a couple of defensive pairings from Game 6 to Game 7. Obviously, that appeared to work. Was that just a Washington thing, or is that something you're going to stick with moving forward?
MIKE SULLIVAN: We'll see how it goes moving forward. Part of it was a matchup choice on our part in the Washington series. But we believe that we can move these pairs around however we want.

There's a lot of familiarity. I don't know that any guy hasn't played with someone at some point in time this year out of necessity, with some of the injuries that our team has had to endure. So we believe there's familiarity.

We don't think it's a huge adjustment if we make switches on the pairs back there. But sometimes it's adjustments from game to game in a series just based on matchups or who we think might be playing well, or if we're looking for a matchup that we think is favorable for us. So all those options are on the table for us.

Q. Has Guentzel exceeded expectations for the organization this year? Any surprise he's able to keep producing in the playoffs?
MIKE SULLIVAN: I'm not sure what the expectations were, you know. We knew he's a very good player, but any time, when a young player first comes into the league, it's not easy to establish expectations. I think he's -- Jake has played remarkably well for us from day one that he's joined our team. I don't think the stage is too big for him. I think that, when the stakes are high, he plays better. He certainly has shown that in the time that he's been here with us.

I believe he's got a quiet confidence about him that allows him to do that. So I don't know that we had any sort of expectations. We're certainly thrilled that he's playing as well as he's playing for us, and our expectation at this point is that he'll continue. He's a very good hockey player, and we can play him on a number of different lines and different situations, and his body of work with us in this X amount of games that he's played -- I don't know how many it is, whether it's 50 or 60 games for us at this point -- he has certainly gotten better with each game he's played.

That's how our coaching staff feels. So now he's established an expectation through his performance, and we don't expect it to change.

Q. Mike, a lot of teams put a lot of emphasis on the way they play defense between the blue lines. Is what the Senators do radically different from what you see around the league?
MIKE SULLIVAN: I don't think it's radically different. I think it's subtly different. I think they play it very well. I think they've all bought into it, and that's why they're successful at it, and our challenge is to make sure that we manage the puck appropriately between the blue lines.

We're certainly a team that likes to play with the puck, and so we're going to have to recognize where the opportunities on the ice are, and we're going to have to try to take advantage of it. But certainly, I believe it's a strength of their team.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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