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May 31, 2017

Mike Sullivan

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania - Postgame

Pittsburgh - 4, Nashville - 1

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. Mike, just wanted to sort of rewind back to when Jake wasn't scoring, what those conversations were like. You probably want to keep a lot of it in-house. How receptive was he to what you were doing?
MIKE SULLIVAN: He was great. I think he's a conscientious kid. He's a pleasure to coach. We just talked about, you know, just playing the game the right way, focusing on the details shift after shift, not being concerned about scoring goals or making plays.

If he just plays the game the right way, you know, it's winning puck battles, it's the wall play, it's gaining lines, it's taking what the game gives you. When the plays are there, his instincts will take over. He's a real talented kid.

So we just tried to shift the focus a little bit with him. We tried to cut his minutes because he was playing a lot of minutes. This is his first year pro, coming out of college, where he's not used to playing the NHL schedule, and the demands of that physically, not to mention a long playoff run. So we just thought if we cut his minutes, we'd get more productive minutes from him.

I think he's had an opportunity to get a little bit of a second wind. He's getting his legs back. I think his confidence is there. You can see how good of a player he is. We can move him up and down the lineup. We thought he was having a good game tonight. We moved him up with Sid. Thought they had a solid game.

Q. Mike, we know you guys are opportunistic, don't need a lot. How does that impact the game as it goes along for your team to understand you are opportunistic, that if the game is going along the way it did tonight, it still won't take much for you to take over?
MIKE SULLIVAN: Well, I think this team believes, has an inner belief that we can score goals. They've provided plenty of evidence for themselves to suggest that.

I know our guys believe in their ability to finish. It's about making sure that if we don't get anything, we try to limit the opportunities of our opponent to the best of our ability. We're going to go through stretches in games where, you know, we might get a handful of shifts in a row where we don't get an opportunity.

It's just about making sure that we continue to try to play the game the right way. Let's defend when the opportunity is called upon to defend. When we have the puck, we've got to make sure we take what the game gives us, and we don't, you know, turn into a high-risk team where we're turning pucks over because we're trying to force things that aren't necessarily there.

I think that's something that our coaching staff has almost a daily discussion with our guys because we instinctively have guys that want to make plays.

Q. Was the decision to put Guentzel's stall beside Sid's a deliberate decision? Talk about the chemistry these two guys have. They really seem to complement each other pretty well.
MIKE SULLIVAN: We tend to put a lot of the young guys next to Sid when they come up and join our team. He's such a great influence on them. I think the leadership that he provides, just those informal conversations are great for a young player. I think Sid has a really nice way of making those guys feel comfortable when they come into our dressing room. The influence he has on these kids goes a long way to giving these kids the confidence that they need.

When you look at our locker room, for a young player, on the surface it could be an intimidating locker room. We have a lot of star power in there. These guys really look up to some of the players that we have on our team, Sid being probably the guy that personifies that.

I think he has a great way of disarming that right away, making guys feel comfortable when they come into our dressing room.

Q. You mentioned the ability to move Jake up and down the lineup. Is he hot enough now and playing well enough now that he's actually almost providing something akin to what Kessel did last year to distribute your offense through the three lines and make the opposing team choose in the manner that some of your opponents had to do last year?
MIKE SULLIVAN: Well, when we put him with Bones, that was one of the thoughts in mind, that we've got some balance, we've got scoring on every line. Someone will potentially get an advantageous matchup.

I think when we have the balance throughout our lineup like that, I think we're hard to play against, or harder to play against, when we're all going.

Whether we move Jake to that line with Bones or sometimes we've used Phil in that capacity, as well. Game to game here, we can make those adjustments as we go. What's nice is as a coaching staff to have the options that we feel like we have. We're fortunate. We believe we've got a deep team. We have players that we can move around, some of our core guys, to create the line combinations or the balance throughout our lineup that makes us a harder team to play against.

Q. How is Nick Bonino feeling after taking that shot off the feet? How would you describe the lift the team got seeing him come back out?
MIKE SULLIVAN: I didn't really ask him how he was feeling. I can't answer that question for you.

I know that he's an inspiring guy for our team. He plays his best when the stakes are high. He's a great shot-blocker. He's a brave kid. When he comes back, you know, on the bench, I know it gives our whole bench a boost.

Q. Rust to Guentzel pass off pads, is that something you try when all else fails? Do you work on that a lot?
MIKE SULLIVAN: We practice it all season long almost daily.

Q. What is the right time for that?
MIKE SULLIVAN: Well, the players have to make those decisions. I think it's a smart play. Sometimes players are shooting to score. Sometimes players are shooting to create a next play. That's a circumstance where he's shooting to create a next play.

Our team works on that all season long. Now it's up to the players to trust their instincts on when those opportunities present themselves, whether or not they're shooting to score goals or whether they're shooting to create that next play. A lot of it just depends on circumstances.

Q. Mike, back onto Bonino's blocked shot. Did that seem to serve as almost a microcosm as to what this team has done all year with the sacrifice of the body to block shots?
MIKE SULLIVAN: I think it's an indication that we're a team that has shown an ability to find ways to compete and win, find success.

I always use the phrase that I think we're a scrappy group. It's not always pretty, but this group is resilient, we're scrappy, we're competitive. We just stay with it. It's a stick-to-itiveness that I think this group has, and I think they believe in one another.

I think Nick's willingness to sacrifice his body to help us on the penalty kill is inspiring for the team. Those are the types of plays that help teams win, especially at this time of year. That was a big part of the game for us tonight. I thought those guys did a terrific job.


FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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