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May 14, 2017

Mike Sullivan

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania - Practice Day

Q. Mike, what do you like about what Kunitz brings to play with Malkin and Kessel?
MIKE SULLIVAN: We like his straight ahead game, his ability to get in on a fore-check. I think he's got a physical edge to his game. I think he helps force turnovers and track loose pucks down and put defensemen under pressure. All of those things, he brings to that line. And he has the ability to make plays with those guys.

But what specifically we like about how he complements the other two guys is just his north-south, his straight ahead game.

Q. This might be somewhat nebulous, but how do you guard against playing up one game more than you should? I ask that because you kept lines the same and done that quite a bit just trying to go day to day and keep things status quo.
MIKE SULLIVAN: I think every game is its own entity, and so we've got to just make sure we keep our eye on the right ball. We're going to take each game as it comes. Hopefully, we're going to win more than we lose, we're going to learn from the experience, and then we're going to move by it and gear up for the next one.

I think that's the only approach that makes sense at this time of year. That's the approach that we've taken all along here, going through the process. It's no different today. And I think -- would we have liked to have got the result last night? Sure, we would have. So we've got to try to learn from that experience. How do we get better? Which areas can we improve? And then let's go out and get ready to drop the puck for Game 2 and be ready to compete again.

I think that's the process we go through, and I think that's the resilience or the certain mindset that, I think, teams have to have, and our team in particular has to have, in order to have success this time of year.

We're not going to hang our heads if we don't have success, and we're not going to be too celebratory if we win. We're going to just take each game as it comes, and we understand this is going to be a hard fought series. So that's all we can do is stay in the moment and try to control the task at hand. So that's the message we're sending to our players, and today was another example of it.

Q. Mike, how much of an adjustment was it to playing a team that was so different from your first two opponents in the first two rounds and seemed a lot more passive. It almost seemed like your defensemen were hanging out with the puck waiting for a fore-check that wasn't coming. How difficult was it to adjust to that more structured way of playing?
MIKE SULLIVAN: I don't think it's overly difficult by any stretch. I think it's just a different challenge, that's all. It's just -- you know, the style of play that Ottawa plays versus our prior opponents is different. So we're going to have to make sure that we take what the game gives us out there, and that's the message that we're sending to our players.

I think our team has the ability to have success in any environment, whether it be playing a team with a defensive structure in a counter-attack mindset, or if we're going to play a team that's going to come at us and try to pound us physically and establish a heavy fore-check. We faced teams all year long that have had a little bit of both, and our challenge is to make sure that we identify how we can have success.

Q. You guys have been one of the best teams all season as getting the puck to the net. Why would a team suddenly be hesitant (inaudible)?
MIKE SULLIVAN: I wish I had an answer for you. Part of it, I think, is just a heightened awareness and a mindset to put the puck on the net. One of the things we did this morning when we had our film session is we showed them a number of different opportunities where we felt we could have put the puck on the net and we chose not to.

But I don't think it was something that's just happened last night. I think this is something that's crept into our game over the last few weeks, and I think we've got to simplify our game a little bit and just look for opportunities to put more pucks at the net, and then we've got to get guys that are going to go to the net and try to compete for those rebounds and those next play opportunities.

I've always been a believer that nothing breaks coverage down better than a shot on goal. It forces decision making. If there's hesitation, or sometimes there's duplication of jobs, that's when opportunity presents itself.

I just felt, or we felt as a coaching staff, that we had a number of opportunities where we chose not to put the puck at the net where we felt, if we did, then good things could possibly happen. We had significant zone time. We had significant possession time. We were pleased with those types of numbers from that regard, but there are certainly areas where we know we can get better.

Q. This might actually come right off of that answer, but Sid's game, his line's game last night, what did you think about them, maybe any type of effectiveness they did, an adjustment they maybe need to make to generate, since they seem to do so much (inaudible)?
MIKE SULLIVAN: I think it's similar to the discussion we just had. I think we've got to simplify the game a little bit. I think that line has the ability to have success in any environment. Those guys can play any game that they need to play to have success. I think that's what makes them as good as they are, and Sid in particular, I think, has the ability to play any type of game in order to have success.

I just think we have to recognize where the opportunities are on the rink to create, and there's going to be some situations where we can't. And when we can't, we've got to hang on to the puck. We've got to exercise some patience. We've got to force them to have to expend energy defending us. And maybe it might be one of those cases where we have to wait for our next shift.

The important thing is I don't think we need to force things that aren't there. We just have to take what the game gives us, and I think if we simplify the game a little bit and look to put more pucks at the net, I think good things will happen for our club.

Q. Chris Kunitz, how much do you guys value his veteran leadership and what he adds to the team, whether he's playing with Malkin or playing with that fourth line?
MIKE SULLIVAN: Well, he's just a great teammate. I don't know how else to describe him. He's a great teammate. He'll do whatever we ask. He'll play any role we ask him to play, and we've shifted that throughout the course of this year. We've used him on the penalty kill. We've put him on power play situations. He's played in the top six. He's played in the bottom six in a check and roll. Whatever we ask of Kunitz, he's always embraced the challenge.

I think that just is an indication of the character of the person. He's just a good person, and he's a great teammate, and he just wants to help the Penguins win.

Q. Just a couple of housekeeping items. No Rowney and Hornqvist at practice (inaudible)?

Q. And is Daley skating on his own?
MIKE SULLIVAN: He skated this morning on his own.

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