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May 17, 2002

Bob Hartley

Pierre Lacroix


Q. Pierre, at any point during Peter's leave of absence did you try to get him back sooner? Did you try talking to him and urging him to come back?

PIERRE LaCROIX: No, that was the agreement we made in Sweden back at training camp when he made that decision or informed us of the decision. Him and I have had a lengthy, lengthy conversation, and at the end, I realized that he did quite a deep reflection. He was very comfortable in his reflection. So I said to him, if you don't mind, I'm going to let you do what you need to do and whenever you're ready, just give us a little -- little sign, and we'll make sure that we're very receptive. I said I'm not going to tease you, I'm not going to try to influence or get you to change your mind; I would rather respect your decision. And when you're ready, be honest with us and just come back.

Q. Bob, can you talk about the physical and mental well-being of your team right now as they get set to take on the Detroit team that's been sitting around for a week and obviously healthy and rested?

COACH HARTLEY: We're feeling very good. First, I'm pleased you talked about our players. We battled hard. We faced adversity. We had two very difficult series against the Kings and the Sharks, and both times we found a way to win. And yesterday was a great day off. Today, we travel. We're going to have a good practice. I like our setup. I think we're in a great situation. Obviously we're facing a great hockey club. But once you get in Conference Finals you know you're going to be facing a very good and deep hockey club. And that's the case with the Red Wings.

Q. If I could return to Pierre and a question again about Peter Forsberg, did you get a sense that he was emotionally or psychologically burned out on hockey, and were you afraid he was thinking about retiring?

PIERRE LaCROIX: Well, in a situation like that, it's pretty obvious that you're afraid of the worse scenario all the time. But to say that, that I was in a frame of mind that he would never come back, that would be from my side exaggerating. On the other hand, he was -- he had a concussion and he had surgery over the previous couple of years. It's been pretty tough physically for him. When you're in a situation like he was, automatically it's going to get you not depressed, but you're going to feel like you need a break from the business you're in. And that's what he made me understand. He said let me heal. And by his action, I think it was pretty obvious he knew deeply what he was doing. But obviously, today, it confirms that he was right, that he did the right decision for himself, and obviously now he did the right decision for the team.

Q. Bob, can you talk a little bit about what adjustments Kasparaitis has had to make, why you paired him with Blake, and how you think he's played so far?

COACH HARTLEY: First, when we acquired Kasparaitis we sat down with him and asked him to address his style to our system, and I think that, you know, he adjusted very well. It was pretty normal. He needed some time, and we were ready to give him time because we know he's a quality person, a great guy in the locker room, and he would be a huge asset to our hockey club. And the more that we're advancing in the playoffs, the stronger he's getting. The more he knows our system, he feels more and more comfortable in it. He's giving us some big minutes, and he's very effective out there.

Q. When you say you asked him to adjust to your system, what did he have to do?

COACH HARTLEY: Well, it's just a matter of making sure that, you know, he understood his role and his responsibility around our team, like, oh, we were very conscientious about our defense. Playing in our zone is a big part of our success. And we feel by adding Kaspar to our defensive core we were adding a physical presence. And we wanted to keep his physical game within our system, and I think that's what he did. We asked him to have good body position, good stick leading to the puck, we basically adjusted his punching game. And that's the biggest adjustment we did with him. In Pittsburg, he was basically wide open, like he could go and pinch wherever he wanted compared to our system, like there is guidelines and there is certain restrictions, and like he's a great guy, and he adjusted very well.

Q. Coach, talk a little bit about the goaltending matchup. How important is goaltending going to be in this series between the two?

COACH HARTLEY: Goaltending is the key to be successful in the playoffs. In Patrick, we have like the greatest goalie in the NHL history. Like, we just have to look back at the past two games what he did for us, and we feel very comfortable. He's a solid competitor, and we could go on for -- for minutes, you know, like finding out why is that good, but if we don't know Patrick well by now, we could be in the wrong business.

Q. Bob, you seem to joy coaching against Scotty Bowman. Is that a perception or do you relish the chance to match wits with him?

COACH HARTLEY: My focus is to make my hockey club a successful one. I don't like to adjust to other coaches. I don't like to adjust to other systems. I feel very fortunate I'm coaching in a great organization full of talented hockey players, full of committed athletes that we all share the same goal. I try to establish with my partners a game plan that will allow us to always move onto the next round. This situation is not different. I feel very privileged and fortunate to be able to coach against Scotty Bowman because let's face it, he's a legend. He's still coaching, but I have the biggest respect for Scotty. I will never coach as long as he does. I will share this with you today. My focus is not on Scotty, and I don't want to be disrespectful on this, my focus is on guiding my hockey club to four wins.

Q. Chelios and Lidstrom obviously lead their defense, but how do you look at their defense beyond those two?

COACH HARTLEY: They were the most consistent hockey club throughout the season. They had like a big start and they pulled away from basically the rest of the league and one of the biggest reasons for their success throughout the season is their depth. You'll look at the blue line, you'll at the goal, you'll look up front like this team has no weaknesses. In order to be successful in the playoffs, you need a solid blue line, you need like a good goalie, and you need four lines. I think Chelios is having a great year.

Q. Bob, because of the intensity of the rivalry, do you talk about keeping your guys in check?

COACH HARTLEY: Emotions will run very high, but discipline is a big part of our game. You don't want to put your team like on the power play. Especially when you can tally with Shanahan, Fedorov, Lidstrom, Robitaille, Brett Hull. I'm always scared when the Red Wings go on the power play they'll pull Hasek. They keep great scorers on the bench. It gets pretty scary.

Q. Obviously Patrick didn't retire. Can you see Patrick playing into his 40s the way he enjoyed the Colorado Avalanche game?

PIERRE LaCROIX: He commanded me to sign a long contract in 1993 because it was his last contract. He's signed three or four since then. He's a competitor and he's the type of player that's going to play until he's having fun like he is right now.

End of FastScripts...

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