May 22, 2002
TORONTO, ONTARIO: Practice Day
Q. Tell us what do you think about Irbe's performance?
ERIK COLE: Well, Archie has come up with some timely saves. There is not a lot of room out there, but they are playing a really tight checking game. Obviously, no one expected there to be a lot of scoring in this series.
Q. Having O'Neill come in the way he did last night, can that change the tone of a series?
ERIK COLE: Obviously it can. O'Neill has been a leader for us all year, so for him to stay in the game last night and come up with a big goal like that is a great thing, and it really speaks of his character and drive as a hockey player. We certainly have to give him a lot of credit for battling through that injury.
Q. Is that the sort of thing that can spread around a dressing room?
ERIK COLE: Oh, yeah. You see a guy out there with one eye and he's playing so well, it certainly gives a little bit of confidence to the bench.
Q. You guys are so close to getting a lead in the series, can you feel yourselves getting closer to making it to the Finals?
ERIK COLE: We are certainly not looking ahead. Toronto is an unbelievable team and they are showing a tremendous amount of resiliency through the playoffs. We are going to go out and take it 20 minutes at a time as we have done through the playoffs.
Q. What has changed with the Hurricanes, getting the big wins in the playoffs?
RON FRANCIS: I think it's just taken a lot of time. The development of the younger players you are starting to see the benefits of that now, guys like Cole, Vasicek, there are a lot of young players in our lineup and it's become a lot more deeper and a lot more effective.
Q. Where does the team get the determination, where does it come from?
RON FRANCIS: I think when they draft guys and they trade for guys, they look for character. I think that's one thing that is common throughout the locker room, is they are good character guys.
Q. Can you talk about your role on this team, the experience you bring to the team?
RON FRANCIS: I've said all along, my job here is very easy. We've got a lot of guys in our locker room like Brind'Amour, Hedican, guys that have been around a long time that understand what it takes. They are all quality individuals, and certainly they help the young kids coming in. That's what it's all about. They come and work hard every night. So from my standpoint, it's actually been very easy. The only thing really we have to deal with is maybe something from an experience point of view or guys who have not been to this point and what to expect.
Q. Paul Maurice earlier was asked about being on the cusp of going up 3-1, what it feels like, and he said that you really don't think about that; that you stay in the present. How does that affect your mindset?
RON FRANCIS: Well, we have focused on that right from the start. We don't want to get too far in front of ourselves and not too far behind ourselves. We try to focus on the present. That's what we try to do each and every night, maintain our focus and composure for the task at hand and that won't change. Right now our focus is on the game tomorrow night and that's what we're all about.
Q. Talk about your success in overtime.
RON FRANCIS: Probably just because we have been there so much, 27 games in the regular season and six in the playoffs. We were in a lot of low-scoring, tight-checking games and I think we have just become accustomed and comfortable in those positions.
Q. How significant was getting by New Jersey in the first round after what happened last year?
RON FRANCIS: I think you want to always have success. It was unfortunate, a lot of our guys were not here in 1986, and that was the last time it happened. Certainly it was very gratifying to win that and put that one behind us. I think right from the start, our guys came in and played with great confidence in themselves and our ability as a team and just tried to work hard every night. I think it's carried over and got us to the point where we are now.
Q. The amount of things that Jeff has gone through in the last 12 to 14 hours, the eye injury, coming back and then skating here today, is that the kind of thing that is infectious to other players; that this guy is willing to do whatever it takes?
RON FRANCIS: You see that at this time of year. Everybody at this point in the season, you want to be out there playing no matter what the situation is. Certainly for us, he's been a key to our success all season long. We saw a great example of it last night, he gets that one opportunity, buries it and wins the hockey game. A gutsy effort by him. Nobody expected him to do it but it's the kind of guy he is. It says a lot about him, and certainly the team is grateful for it.
Q. It's the kind of thing that can actually, a week from now, not that you are looking that far ahead, but a week from now you may look back and see that this is the turning point?
RON FRANCIS: Well, we are looking at tomorrow night. We've talked all along that this is a team effort. Last night, he was one of those 20 guys, and he was not going to be stopped by an injury and he continued to battle hard and found a way to help us out.
End of FastScripts...