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May 28, 2002

Ron Francis

Arturs Irbe

Jeff O'Neill


Q. Just your reaction going to the Stanley Cup Finals.

JEFF O'NEILL: It a great feeling. I think it's something that we all dream about as kids. I've been here for seven years, and this definitely makes up for some of the tough times.

Q. A long trip from Hartford to Greensboro, maybe your feelings on that?

JEFF O'NEILL: Like I said, for me personally and the organization, it was some tough times when I first started out here. They drafted some players and then they acquired Ron Francis, and it's been a lot more fun ever since. I think our organization is heading in the right direction with this step.

Q. You guys have been almost automatic in overtime, what does that say?

JEFF O'NEILL: I think we are comfortable in overtime. We take a defensive system and crash the net a lot, and that's a good recipe for overtime goals, just throw it at the net.

Q. Talk about the chances that you had tonight, too.

JEFF O'NEILL: I think when you get to play with these guys, it's a dream for a right winger, and Ron, he just creates so many chances with his passing. But CuJo was just outstanding tonight.

Q. Ron, just your reaction going to the Stanley Cup Finals with this team.

RON FRANCIS: Well, this team has certainly come a long way. We talked about it, you hear about learning how to handle adversity, learning how to handle success. And I think our guys, no better example, twice in this series, looked like we had things under control, and then they scored with 7 seconds left in Game 2 and 21 seconds tonight. It's just devastating. But the guys in the locker room, they showed character and found a way to come back out and win the hockey game, and tonight, win the series.

Q. Did you say anything between the third period and overtime?

RON FRANCIS: We have a lot of guys that say a lot of things. You know, I think we've been there before in Game 2. We knew it was possible to come back and win. At that point, there's no sense feeling sorry for yourself because it doesn't do you any good. You have to come back out there and find a way to get that one shot that turns it around, and that's what we are trying to focus on. If we're in position with one shot, we can get to the Stanley Cup Finals; that's more or less what we talked about and tried to emphasize the positive.

Q. Your coach said you've officially applied for underdog status.

RON FRANCIS: Can't help but be third choice with Colorado or Detroit. (Laughs.)

Q. What was said, if anything, to Gary Roberts?

RON FRANCIS: I have so much respect for him as a player and as a person. Their whole team, the amount of injuries they had, the amount of adversity they had, they played great. He was a huge part of that success, especially earlier when Sundin went down, and the way he played in the Ottawa series was absolutely incredible. I just told him that I thought he played fantastic in the playoff, and poured his heart out. I would love to have him come with us, and he certainly gave it everything he had. As I say, I respect him as a player and a person. I wish him nothing but the best.

Q. Being here with the beginning of the franchise and now you are here at its most amazing point, a lot of years have gone by; can you reflect on that?

RON FRANCIS: I didn't have any gray hair when I first got here. You have to start someplace, and I think this organization, we had some good years in Hartford and then things kind of went sour there. I came back to this organization four years ago, and slowly it's been building in the right direction. I like what we've been doing. We have a lot of good players in the locker room, a lot of good character individuals both on and off the ice. I think our organization has been patient. I think our city and our fans have been tremendous. We're heading in the right direction, so that's a great sign for us. You want to be a good organization, not just for a short time, but for a long time. It's one of our goals.

Q. Can you talk about going back to the Stanley Cup Finals? Did you ever think you might get back there?

RON FRANCIS: Obviously, at my age, I don't have many chances left. So this will certainly be special for us to get to that point and have the opportunity to go to the Finals. I owe a lot to the guys in the locker room. They have worked incredibly hard each and every night to give us this opportunity and I'm certainly grateful for that chance.

Q. Archie, just your reaction going to the Stanley Cup Finals?

ARTURS IRBE: It's hard to really grasp it right now, so it hasn't set in. At the end of the day, there are some missions to accomplish. We know who we are going to play against. It's going to be a better team and stronger team and we are underdogs. I guess in a way we were not supposed to be here and nobody would have believed if anybody in this room would have said, "They are going to make it to the Finals." But we always have found a way to find the heroes at the right time and in the right games, especially now in the playoffs. It's a great feeling because this is a team, with a capital "T".

Q. How did you prepare differently for this game?

ARTURS IRBE: It's all the same. My job never really has changed. I have to stop the puck. Preparation doesn't change. The pressure is a little bit more and there's less and less, obviously, room for error as the playoffs go on, and especially in overtime. So that's the only difference. But because you have no room for error, you are really focused.

Q. Do you like when it's a really tight game and both goaltenders are playing so well?

ARTURS IRBE: Yeah, it's fun, it's fun playing against a goalie like CuJo. He's one of the best clutch goalies in the league right now. To come out on top, it's quite an unbelievable feeling.

Q. Your coach referred to your team as "mongrels," you used the term "underdog," are you using this as, "Us against the World?"

ARTURS IRBE: We have made more friends and obviously more supporters throughout this journey in the playoffs, and we have an unbelievable crowd back in North Carolina. I'm sure there are some people in Hartford that are really ecstatic for us, too.

End of FastScripts...

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