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May 22, 2017

Mike Sullivan

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania - Practice Day

Q. Mike, since the end of Game 3, there's been a lot of talk in your room from yourself about raising compete level, being harder on pucks, that sort of thing. Is it just natural that you go through ebbs and flows even in the playoffs with that sort of thing? And how do you get that back like you have?
MIKE SULLIVAN: Well, I think it's -- I don't know if it's natural. It's an important aspect of winning games, especially at this time of year. I think the essence of the game is rooted in emotion and passion and hunger and a will to win. That's what makes our game as great as it is, I think.

So at this time of year, I think it's critically important that we have that determination and play with that necessary conviction in order to give ourselves the best chance to win. So we talk a lot about the puck battles and the thankless jobs that you can't necessarily quantify, but they help teams win. And those thankless jobs are critically important at this time of year.

Q. Mike, this team had it last year too, that ability to just kind of focus on the next game, the task at hand, forget about what happens -- forget about what's ahead. What is it -- and they have it again now. What is it about this group that they're able to do that? Because it's huge what you guys could be -- you know, have an opportunity to do.
MIKE SULLIVAN: Well, I think it's -- I think we have a mature group, and I give our leadership group a lot of credit. These guys, I think they understand it. I think they've been through a number of experiences over the course of their respective careers, that they have it in perspective.

So each game -- we have to take each game as it comes, and nothing's been accomplished to this point. So we try to take each game as it comes. We play the game. We break the film down. We try to learn from the experience, and then we move by it, and we look at the next one.

We're in the same situation again. We had a film session this morning. We try to learn from it, and now we'll move by it, and we'll set our mind on the game right in front of us, and that's tomorrow night.

I think our leadership group certainly, I think, takes charge in that regard, from a mindset standpoint and making sure that we reset the mindset and we're ready to go for the next game.

Q. Regardless of the goals you scored the last two games, have you seen Maatta take his game to another level in the playoffs? And how important is that considering how all the guys have been in and out for you?
MIKE SULLIVAN: Yeah, I think Olli is playing the best hockey right now that I've seen. I think he's playing with a lot of confidence. I think the fact he's been rewarded with a couple of goals here lately certainly helps him in that regard. But I think he's playing his best hockey right now at both ends of the rink.

He's hanging on the pucks and making those subtle plays to help us get out of our end zone, and he has that ability. I think his confidence helps him in that regard as well. And he's defending hard. He's a strong kid. I think he's strong down low. He's strong in front of our net, and he's a really competitive guy.

We're relying on him to continue to play the game that we know he's capable of to help this team win, and he's certainly playing at his very best right now.

Q. Mike, first, any update on Wilson or any of the other injured players?
MIKE SULLIVAN: Scott is fine. The other injured players -- let me think. Horny and Chad Ruhwedel skated on their own this morning. They're still day to day. Tommy Kuhnhackl did not skate. Justin Schultz did not skate either, but that was planned on their part as far as part of their rehab process. They're all still day to day, as far as their status is concerned, and they're all making progress.

Q. And the other one, Conor kind of admitted that his slump has kind of been caused by something mental. Just wondering how you help a young guy through something like that.
MIKE SULLIVAN: It's tough. Conor's a really good player, and he's helped this team get to this point. He's one of our leading scorers in the regular season. He's one of our leading scorers, even-strength in the regular season, which is a testament to his overall consistent game. He's a real good player, and he's a terrific kid.

You know, he's fighting through a little bit of adversity from a personal standpoint right now. Our coaching staff is trying to help him through that process, and we know he's going to be a good player for us here moving forward.

My job as the coach is to make the difficult decisions on a game-by-game basis, as far as lineups are concerned, that in putting a lineup on the ice that we think will give us the best chance to win on a given game. The window is very short right now.

So that's just the reality of it. I think Conor understands it. He certainly knows what we think of him, and I know he's going to help this team moving forward.

Q. Mike, we've heard many times about the two-way or 200-foot game of Crosby and usually his linemates. What do you think of Sid and Phil's two-way games, both over the course of their career and basically of late?

Q. Geno and Phil.
MIKE SULLIVAN: Geno and Phil. Those guys are dynamic offensive players, and I think that's obvious. I think where this coach has tried to challenge him is to improve their overall game. What I love about those guys is that I think they care about the Penguins. I think they care about winning, and I think we make concerted efforts in meeting us halfway to use our language with them, as far as their play away from the puck and the decisions they make when they have the puck.

I think these guys have continued to make strides and improve their overall 200-foot games, and I think that's what's helped the Penguins win games to this point. These guys are vitally important parts of this team. I think their offense speaks for itself, but certainly, I think their overall respective games have grown to a level where they're helping us win games.

It's hard to win at this time of year if you're not playing the game the right way. And part of the definition of playing the game the right way is making sure that you play an overall 200-foot game. I know these guys are making concerted efforts towards it.

Q. Do you feel like you've solved some things in terms of how you attack Ottawa, or do you think it's dangerous to think that way?
MIKE SULLIVAN: Listen, I think we're playing a very good opponent. This is a really good team. We have a lot of respect for Ottawa and how good they are. We're going to have to be at our very best tomorrow night. That's what I think. I think we have to bring the same commitment level, the same attention to detail, the same willingness to sacrifice for each other that it takes to have success.

So that's where our focus is, and that's the discussion that we had with our team this morning, and we'll continue that discussion moving forward. This is a really good hockey team we're playing. We have a lot of respect for how good this team is, and we know that we're going to have to be at our very best to have success.

Q. I asked some of the players this, and you can include coaches if you want. With the Bonino, Kessel, giving him a ride thing, if your car broke down, which one of your players or assistants would you want to have, who could actually fix it?
MIKE SULLIVAN: I would probably have to say Jacques Martin. He has infinite wisdom. He's been around the game a long time, but he's had many life experiences to draw on. So I have to believe Jacques' infinite wisdom would help us fix cars (laughter).

Q. (No microphone)?
MIKE SULLIVAN: That's deductive reasoning on your part.

Q. Mike, they mentioned in the broadcast last night that the last two teams that won by six goals or more then lost the next game in the playoffs and both ended up losing the series. Is that something you can use as instructive for your team to not get overconfident? Or because it didn't involve your team, do you not care about that type of thing at all?
MIKE SULLIVAN: No, we don't even discuss that. For me, that stuff is -- I just don't think it has any bearing on the circumstance that we're in right now. We're focused on our team, on our mindset, on how we need to approach the very next game moving forward. That's the discussion that we have with our players.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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