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June 7, 2017

Mike Sullivan

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania - Practice Day

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. Have you noticed any sort of change of Malkin's demeanor, how much he talks, how vocal he might be?
MIKE SULLIVAN: I haven't really noticed a change. I think he always is fairly animated, especially around the locker room, in a casual environment. He's got a great sense of humor. I think he enjoys his teammates. I know he loves the game. I think he's one of those guys that is a fun guy to be around.

That's been my experience in coaching him the last couple seasons. I haven't noticed much change in his demeanor at all.

Q. Looking at Game 4, how pleased were you with the balance between pushing the attacking, not opening the game too much and getting on the wrong side of the puck?
MIKE SULLIVAN: We liked a lot of the game, as said after the game and yesterday. After breaking the film down, it's just provided more affirmation for me that we did a lot of pretty good things out there.

It was the first game in the series that we out-chanced them. We had some high-quality chances. I thought our power play really looked good. We didn't score, but the movement, the momentum it got for our team I thought was where it needs to be.

Just focusing on controlling the process, those guys are in the -- they're moving in the right direction. They generated some quality chances. Sid gets a great chance on the entry on a clean breakout, gets a grade A scoring chance.

There are a lot of good things we liked. I thought in the third period we pressed a little bit and opened up. The chances we gave up in the third period were predominantly off the rush, which is a good indication we're trying to open it up a little bit, we're pressing to try to score, climb back into the game.

But other than that, I thought for a lot of the game we really liked what we saw.

Q. What have you seen in regards to the closeness of this group?
MIKE SULLIVAN: I've been around a lot of teams both as a player and a coach now. This team, I think, has a unique chemistry. They're a great group of people. I think they enjoy playing for one another. They've accomplished a lot in their time together. They have a unique chemistry.

I believe it's a competitive advantage for our team. I think these guys really enjoy one another, and they play hard for one another. I know our coaching staff doesn't take it for granted. We talk about it a lot. We've got a great group of guys. These guys are a privilege to coach. We push them hard because we think so highly of them, we're trying to get the most out of them.

By no means does our coaching staff take for granted the quality of the people that we have an opportunity to work with every day.

Q. Status update for Hornqvist and Bonino?
MIKE SULLIVAN: Horny was a maintenance day. Nick Bonino's status is the same, day-to-day, and we'll go from there.

Q. Obviously it's a best-of-three series now. Do you feel like you're against the ropes a bit and have to play desperate here in Game 5?
MIKE SULLIVAN: I don't know that we feel that we're against the ropes. I think we have to win a game. That hasn't changed.

'Desperate' is a funny word for me because it gets thrown around our game a lot. It always has a connotation of hopelessness. I don't believe that's the word that we want to use to describe our team.

I think we've got to play with urgency. I think we've got to play determined. I think we have to play with conviction. I think when our team plays that way, we're at our very best.

Our focus is really, quite honestly, on one game. That's the approach that we have to take. We've got to keep our mindset just focused on that short-term approach, just that on-task mindset of just controlling what we can and staying in the moment.

That's where we're at. That's all we've talked about with our team over the last couple of days, is our focus is just on one game. We're going to try to put our best game on the ice.

Q. You talked this year about speed in all its forms. Is there a form they're missing or lacking in the team? Is there a certain speed that Phil Kessel brings to the table?
MIKE SULLIVAN: Well, I think Phil brings physical speed. He can really skate. He has that ability to create separation and can be a threat off the rush or take defensemen wide. I think he brings that aspect to the game.

I think he thinks the game quickly. I think he processes the game quickly. As a result, that's an indication of why he's as good a passer as he is, because he sees the opportunities and he's able to execute on them. I think he helps our team's speed in a lot of ways.

Certainly I think the one area where I think our team can improve on here is just our transition game. I think that's a dangerous element of our game that has been prevalent throughout of course of this season. I do know that we can get better in that aspect of our game here over the next week. That's something that we've talked about, how we can just get better at our transition speed. I think that gives our team a competitive advantage.

Q. We've seen some breakaways in both directions in the last couple of games. Something about the style of play that's creating to those, lapses defensively?
MIKE SULLIVAN: I think both teams play similar styles. They both play speed games. Nashville is a quick team. We believe we have a speed team.

Players are going to have opportunities where they see a window, where they can get behind the defense, or they can stretch the ice, then they're going to take advantage of it.

There's a fine line always between aggression and over-aggression. I think both teams are trying to stay on the right side of that line. Both teams are trying to put pressure on one another, control territory, play that in-your-face game, always running the risk of the over-aggression can be used against you. I think maybe the breakaways might be an indication of that.

Q. I know you obviously are a big believer in the process. When it becomes a best-of-three series, does that become harder?
MIKE SULLIVAN: The only way you can do your very best to control the outcome is to focus on the process. You control what you can. It's our attitude, it's our effort, it's our attention to detail, our commitment level, our competitive spirit. Those are the things that we can control. Our execution, those are all things that we're focused on. That's the process.

I'm not sure any other approach makes sense. So that's where our focus always is. Those are the discussions that we have with our players. We'll continue to do that moving forward.

Q. (Question regarding Mario and his input.)
MIKE SULLIVAN: Sure, we do. He's at a lot of the games. He comes down, shares his insight. We certainly value what he brings.

Obviously he thinks the game on a certain level that most people don't think the game. We value his input. Mario is great because he does entrust us with making the right decisions. He does empower us to do our jobs, which we're very appreciative of. But we certainly value his insights and his observations.

Q. Obviously Justin Schultz has to take on a bigger role with Kris Letang being out. How do you think he's been in this series?
MIKE SULLIVAN: I think Justin is doing a good job for us. He's been asked to play a much bigger role, more significant minutes, in different situations. He's embraced that challenge.

What I love about him is, I know he cares, he believes in this team, believes in his teammates. He's just going out, he's trying to compete. I think all of our players are doing that at this point. I don't think you get to the Stanley Cup Finals in the absence of that care and that compete, that willingness to go the extra mile.

I think Justin is doing that for us. He helps us on our power play. He's playing lots of minutes for us, in situations that we haven't asked him to play in the past, out of necessity. He's done nothing but embrace the challenge. It's never perfect out there for any of our guys. We love his compete level, just his willingness to jump back over the boards and try to help this team win.


FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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