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June 11, 1999

Derian Hatcher

Ken Hitchcock

Richard Matvichuk

Pat Verbeek


Q. Can we have an update on Mike Modano; is the wrist broken? Can he play and when will he play if he can play?

KEN HITCHCOCK: Mike is day-to-day. Worse case scenario is out seven to ten days. He is -- it is jammed and, I don't know, we will see how he goes in the morning, in the morning skate. But indications are right now that he will play tomorrow and unless that changes dramatically after the skate, we are going with the assumption that he is playing the game tomorrow.

Q. Is his wrist in a cast or anything, any protective device at all at this point?

KEN HITCHCOCK: Only thing he has right now, it looks like a bowling thing. He looks like a bowler, whatever he is wearing there. There is no swelling, and you know, there is usual discomfort that comes from having a wrist jam, but with no swelling and not near as much discomfort today as we thought there might be. It is really good news. But I think in the same breath if Mike can't play, this isn't like an injury that is -- this isn't like an injury where you are at the start of Playoffs like it was with Nieuwendyk and, you know, you have got to go two months without one of your best players. We have got to try to get three wins for the rest of our season, so other people will have to step up if Mike can't go. We have got people that are just busting to get in the lineup. We will have to make adjustments, but right now the news was good today and we are hopeful that he is a player tomorrow.

Q. Do you expect that his effectiveness will be limited if he can play or do you expect him to be --

KEN HITCHCOCK: I don't know. I think -- he felt pretty good today. I don't know, I think he felt a lot better than I think. A lot of us thought he would. I think at this time of year you really have to put a lot of that aside. I am sure other players on their team are hurting like we have. I think right now, you know, I think the only thing that it would affect would maybe be a little bit on faceoffs and that would be something that we might have to adjust later on. As far as all the other aspects, again the pre-game skate will tell us a lot. But I think we are assuming right now that he is a player.

Q. When asked earlier, Mike Peca said if he had the chance to go after the injury, sure, he would. Do you expect that and how do you go about protecting that?

KEN HITCHCOCK: Well, I think you look at it two ways. He is our best player; Mike is, so they go after our best player. We will go after their best player, tit-for-tat - their best player is Hasek.

Q. I know you have talked before about how comfortable your team is in one-goal games and close games. Has the difficulty of getting anything going against these guys taken you back at all and are you worried about how much gas your team might have left in the tank?

KEN HITCHCOCK: The gas thing, no, because it just seems like we have had to play this Playoffs this way really in the last -- well, really in all three rounds, but especially in the last two. I think our players are very familiar with this type of series because I think if you talk to the guys it feels exactly the same as, especially the first two, Edmonton and St. Louis. This series feels exactly the same as the St. Louis series in that the games are right down -- they are right on edge; the ebbs and flows of the games are dramatic at times. But the competition is very intense and I think our players recognize that in the St. Louis series it was a six-game series but four of them went into overtime and there was a very fine line between the two teams. I don't see that line being anything different. I think that from a media standpoint, some people might be surprised because Buffalo was a 7th seed and we were a No. 1 seed. But I think that from a hockey player's standpoint, from a coach's standpoint when everybody in the hockey world -- and we watch a lot as players and coaches, we saw what they did to Ottawa and there was a tremendous respect for the Ottawa team, I think everybody recognized how good Buffalo was. I think if you look at Buffalo in these head-to-head competitions, especially with that 2-1 game that we had here, I think all of us recognize that they are a formidable opponent and they will be for the rest of the Playoffs. And when you see them play defense as well as they play right now, and I have said this before, they look a lot like we do.

Q. Two questions. First, is there or is there not a fracture in Mike's wrist?

KEN HITCHCOCK: I am not commenting is there or is there not. All I know he is a player; not a player; and, right now, he looks like a player.

Q. The other question is, Lindy said because of Hasek going down a few times last night, he thought it was open season on Belfour now.

KEN HITCHCOCK: That is good. Eddie can take care of himself. I told you before and I am going to tell everybody again, I have a real problem when pucks are free and goaltenders want to go way out and block us from getting those loose pucks. Those loose pucks are as much ours as they are the goaltenders and if he wants to go out and defend that loose puck, then that is up to him. But that is ours just as much as it is his. I don't like that and I don't think our players like that because we work hard to forecheck. And if a player is going to block us out, it is no difference than if he is a defensemen going to block us out from going to get those pucks. There is two different plays. Skrudland's play probably should have been a penalty because Brian didn't work hard enough to hold up to get around him. He wanted the puck bad. But the other play on Modano, he got blocked out, that was a loose puck, that should have been ours and we got blocked out. He is in the way; he gets run over. If they run over Eddie, he can take care of himself. He is a tough guy. If we get going, exchanging goaltenders, we got lots of good ones, so we are deep.

Q. Can you talk about what Ken said about Buffalo being a formidable opponent; do you think anybody on your team got caught up in the thought that the Western Conference Finals was the Stanley Cup Finals the way so many people build it?

PAT VERBEEK: No, I think obviously when you get down to it, you still have to win four games and I think going into the series playing Buffalo, if you would have looked at the halfway point of the year they were in first place in the east and we knew coming into this series and they had a lot of injuries, when they started to decline near the end of the year, but once they got everyone back, they were on all cylinders again. When we played them when we lost 2-1; they were on all cylinders there. Except we didn't even have Hasek that game and it was one of the toughest games that we had to face. So we knew as a group that it is going to take our best effort in order to win.

Q. Both players to comment on Hitchcock; is it open season on goaltenders?

PAT VERBEEK: I know one thing for us, Hasek is, you know, a great goaltender. For us we are going to have to make sure that we are in his face the whole time for shots and making sure that he can't see the puck and coming out to play the puck. I mean, he is like a third defensemen out there. He moves it and runs interference so that we can't get to the puck. So it is certainly things that we are going to have to adjust to and try to go after.

RICHARD MATVICHUCK: I think we know how Eddie plays the puck. He is really well at it; like a third defensemen for us. For him to go out there and play the puck, it is to our advantage. Someone is going to crowd the net. It is our job to push him out of the way. Like Ken said, Eddie can handle himself. He has proven it before and there is no doubt in our mind there.

Q. I know you are trying to protect your players and you are also looking for any advantage you can in such a tight series, but by League rule, in all due respect, don't you have to disclose the exact nature of Modano's injury?

FRANK BROWN: I will answer that. The answer is no.

KEN HITCHCOCK: Thank you, Mr. Brown.

Q. Pat, do you expect more skater-to-skater retribution, if you are aggressive with Hasek, as opposed to them running Eddie?

PAT VERBEEK: Certainly I think the next two games are going to be very physical. I don't see that settling down at all. I think last night and the game before was really -- were two games of really starting to become where you get into a series and really starting to feel that you are a part of the series and where you really start to hate one another. I think we are at that point right now.

Q. Ken, do you back off on anything Mike does, do you play him full penalty kill, full powerplay or do you try and use other players in different situations?

KEN HITCHCOCK: I think right now the only way that Modano would come in is if he was a player in a full-time basis. I think that if there is any reservations in his mind or there is any reservations in our mind, we have two days off here after Game 3. We have to view that, but I think psychologically we know how aggressive this series is going to be. We are very familiar with these type of series. We have played in three of them already. We also recognize that Mike has to be 100% in his mind and his body, that he can play in these things. If he is a player tomorrow, he will be playing on a full-time basis. I think the only thing you have to guard against is faceoffs and that is something that, you know, we played a series last against Colorado and they had an injury to a centericeman, they pulled him off of the faceoffs because of that, and so we have to view that as something whether Mike can do it or not. But if he is going in, he is going in as a full-time player and like I said, he is our best player, and he is going to have to protect himself. We can't go out there and worry about the Mike Pecas or Dixon Wards, running after him; we can't worry about that stuff. You are going to have to take care of yourself in this business just like Eddie will or Hasek will.

Q. Ken, do you sense anywhere that they are enjoying a physical series because they think they can wear down your older players?

KEN HITCHCOCK: I think what they are saying what they have said in the paper today is that they feel that the grind is going to have an effect on us because of where we have been. They know that we have played a lot of hockey with some overtimes and very emotional series and I think that they are thinking that that is going to be a big benefit for them. But I guess we are going to have to find that out because there is a tremendous amount of resolve in our group right now. If they can wear us down, if that is what they want to do, that is fine. But we have had resolve before, Edmonton tried the same thing and we got stronger as it went on. So did St. Louis and we got stronger so I guess we are going to have to find out at the end of the game here.

Q. Do you suspect that in getting physical with Hasek not only does that make him think about it when he is going for the puck, do you think he is also thinking about that when he is trying to stop shots as well?

KEN HITCHCOCK: No, I don't think so. He is the best player in the League. This isn't meant as anything for Hasek. Our strength of our team and I -- I am not sure I am -- the message isn't to go after Dominik Hasek. The message is on loose pucks - our team is a great forechecking team - those pucks are ours. They are just as much ours as they are Buffalo's, if they are up for grabs and if a player is going to interfere, get out of the way. Stay in the net. That is what you are paid for. If he wants to come out of the net, then pay the price. That is -- if a goaltender has the puck, then we have to, as an obligation, and the League rule is we have got to make sure that we hold up. That is why Skrudland's was a penalty. He didn't pull up enough. But if the puck is loose and he is in our way, and it is up for grabs, then get out of our way because we are coming over top. We are not going around.

Q. Dan, there has been a lot of backtalk about basically the two sides getting into kind of a hate fest here and possibly either going after both goalies. Do you see this elevating even more?

DERIAN HATCHER: Both teams right now are, you know, fighting for what everyone has dreamed of all their lives and you know, to call it a hate fest, I think that is expected. They want it and we want it. That is going to happen and as far as the goalie thing, I mean, I don't know, I guess you have got to just wait and see on that. I mean, I personally -- right now I think it has been blown out of proportion a little bit. Skrudland hit Hasek last night, but I mean, I saw the replay of it and I mean, to me he barely ran into him. I mean, he didn't run at him or you know, and I think that is being blown out of proportion.

Q. Ken, first of all, the easier one I guess is on Hasek. He drops a stick a lot, as you know. I don't think you have yet been able to take advantage of that when he loses it?

KEN HITCHCOCK: Well, I have a real problem with that and that is I think Bob and myself, it bothers us a lot because he uses it perfectly as a stopper and it has bothered a lot of coaches in this League. We don't allow hockey players to play like that. Why should not allow the goaltender to play like that. Not only does it get dropped, but it gets strategically placed, I have a real problem with that. I have a real problem with the goal post going off when they are killing penalties and people lose their sticks, all of a sudden the goal post goes off like it did twice yesterday. It is a problem. I just think that when you are in those areas, we don't allow our players to play like that. Why should we allow the goaltender to play like that. He is too good. He is too -- he has got -- he has got an advantage because he is a great athlete and he is a focused goaltender, but he has taken it to another level. I think he is abusing the rules. I, like a lot of other coaches, have a real problem with that. I think the problem is that we are afraid to speak up at times because of how good Dominik is. But you know what? We are fighting for something that we have spent our lives trying to win and we want the rules to be the same. If Eddie goes out and plays the puck and he goes to shield somebody, then they have every right to get in his way and he is going to have to pay the consequences. But I don't think that we have to protect and it is the same thing with Modano, if they want to whack Mike, that is fine, we will have to live with the consequences. But I don't like when there is a double set of standards for people and that goal stick -- to me, if it goes outside that blue area, we should just shoot it in the stands.

Q. The other question, Pat, where do you think you guys have to play better now that you are in Buffalo? What would you have to improve offensively....

PAT VERBEEK: Probably on the special -- on the powerplay especially I think that we were 0 or 6 last night. It didn't really come back to bite us, even strength, we were solid, so you know, if you look at where they got their offense from, it was from the powerplay. So I think probably the special teams need to be, for us, played a little bit stronger and make them pay when we have to make them pay.

End of FastScripts....

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