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May 23, 2017

Mike Sullivan

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania - Pregame

Q. Just start off with status updates on Schultz, Hornqvist, Ruhwedel and Kuhnhackl.
MIKE SULLIVAN: Kuhnhackl, Ruhwedel and Hornqvist stayed back in Pittsburgh. They're rehabbing back there. They won't be available for tonight's game, but they are making progress.

Schultz is here in Ottawa with us. He is rehabbing as well, but he will not play tonight.

Q. Against the Capitals, you guys had a few chances to eliminate them, and ultimately they kind of hung around and hung around. Can you do anything different to have more of a killer instinct or to close things out?
MIKE SULLIVAN: Well, you're playing against good teams, and so you have to give these teams credit. They play hard, and they're trying to win too. I think the most important thing is we have to control what we can to be at our very best. It starts with a mindset and a readiness going into the game, and then we've got to make sure that we go out and we try to dictate the terms as best we can to play to our identity and play to our strengths.

I think we've got to make sure that we have an element of discipline to our game in all of its forms, whether it be not go to the penalty box or making sure that we -- a discipline that we stick to our game plan that gives us the best chance to win. I think that's the most important thing. That's where our focus needs to be. And I believe that our players are well aware of the circumstance that we're in. We've been in it a number of times, and we just have to bring our best game.

Q. Of the guys that took the option, I just wanted to ask you if they're cool for tonight, for instance, Haglund coming off the injury or Maatta, who normally does take (inaudible)?
MIKE SULLIVAN: Yeah, they're fine.

Q. Mike, when you're facing a team that can be eliminated, what do you find is kind of the common thread in how they play? What do you think stands out the most?
MIKE SULLIVAN: Well, I think -- obviously, the urgency is the biggest factor. When a team has their back against the wall, there's -- you know, the margin for error is small, and there's no tomorrow unless you have success. So because of that, it brings a certain level of urgency to a respective team's game, and I think that's why the elimination games are the most difficult.

As I said, we have a number of experiences to draw on. We understand what we're up against. We know we're going to get Ottawa's best game. We've got to make sure we bring ours. That's how we have to look at it.

I think it's a really short term, focused, one-game mindset. We've got to make sure we stay in the moment and we stay on task and we take each shift as it comes and we control what we can out there. As long as we have that readiness to our game and that urgency to our game, I know that our team will bring its best.

Q. Mike, I know your hand is forced right now with the injuries, but how challenging is it to have a D-force with all lefties? Have you ever dealt with anything like that before?
MIKE SULLIVAN: I can't remember over the years. I'm sure I have over the years. I can't think of the teams offhand. I don't think it's a huge deal. In a perfect world, we'd like to have lefty, righties, and have them on their strong sides. I think it makes a defenseman's job in certain areas of the rink a little bit easier, but our guys have done a really good job as far as making the adjustments they need to make and their willingness to play the offside in order to help our team win.

This group of defensemen, they do whatever we ask to try to help us win. That's what we love about this team, this group of players, our defensemen are a part of it. These guys are -- they're a privilege to coach.

Q. Coach, when you look at the playoffs as a whole, not just you guys, but you look at this playoff season, you see Nashville, the 16th best team, making the Stanley Cup finals, a whole bunch of teams like yourselves succeeding with injuries. Is there anything that stands out as a surprise to you with how the playoffs have unfolded?
MIKE SULLIVAN: I don't know if it's a surprise. I think what it is an indication of is the parity in the league. I think there's a fine line between winning and losing in this league. For me, I have so much respect how good this league is and how good these teams are.

It's hard to make the playoffs, and so that's how good the league is. So I think, if respective teams don't go into a game with a certain readiness, you're going to run the risk of getting beat, and that's -- I think that's what it's an indication of is just the parity in the league and how good these teams are. And all of these series throughout the playoffs, I think are an indication of that.

Q. (Inaudible) is that something they've gotten better at? I know it's a small sample size.
MIKE SULLIVAN: Yeah, they've made that adjustment. They've both played the offsides throughout the course of the regular season. I don't think they've done it much prior to that at this point, but they have a comfort level there. They've both shown an ability to play both sides, their strong sides and their offsides, so it gives us certain flexibility in putting certain line combinations together that we think can be effective.

So to have guys that are versatile that we can play on their off sides makes our job a little easier when we put these line combinations or these defense pairs together.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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