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June 9, 2000

Ken Hitchcock

DALLAS, TEXAS: Practice Day

Q. Was there a certain specific point in the game last night when you began to sense that the personality of the game was more to your team's favor?

COACH HITCHCOCK: Yes. Yes. I think middle of the second period after Holik's great opportunity there where he hit the side of the net, the pace seemed to go down to a level that was more conducive to our team. I thought we had a little bit of a lull in the first overtime. I haven't had chance to look at all the tapes yet. The is like War and Peace (Laughter.). Second overtime was our best period of hockey because the pace had gone down a little bit, but I really thought that after Holik's opportunity we started to really play.

Q. Success of faceoffs, how big a role did that play the success with the faceoffs?

COACH HITCHCOCK: I don't think it was so much -- when you are playing a series against a team that is on the mark like New Jersey, has been on the mark for the last little while, what you are looking for is just an edge somewhere. We haven't had an edge in this series in very many departments. We have been kind of chasing the series since the first game. But there is a couple of areas in our mind that we have an edge and faceoffs is one of them. But I think at the end of the day you are going to need more advantages in order to win hockey games because I think we haven't had advantages. We have been able to keep up to the pace in certain areas but we have not had any advantages. That is one area. I thought the other area was that we finally started to hang on to the puck and make plays and I think once we started to hang on the puck then our confidence started to grow but the pace had to go down a little bit for us to do it.

Q. What was the thinking behind moving Sydor and Zubov on the Modano line and how much effect did it have on their performance?

COACH HITCHCOCK: I think it is like -- it is like anything else when you have one line that is really doing the offensive damage - although Nieuwendyk was a great player yesterday - we felt that if that is our best transition line, then let us give it an opportunity; let's make a unit of 5 and play it as a unit of 5, but Larry did some good things against it too because a lot of times they saw Holik and that was trouble for us too. So it is kind of a give and take. We just felt putting those five guys together gave us an opportunity transition-wise.

Q. Did it help their confidence? Were they losing confidence before that?

COACH HITCHCOCK: No, -- I think our whole team was -- we were-- the whole series we have been on our heals. Yesterday was first time we went after it and got after it. I have said this description before, we are really the nail and they were the hammer and we were just moving the nail around for the last four games here. Yesterday was we finally got some pounds there on our own.

Q. Larry Robinson was saying last night the Devils might have an advantage tomorrow because they tend to roll four lines last night (inaudible) when you shortened the bench a little bit, will that be a factor do you think tomorrow night?

COACH HITCHCOCK: What did he mean because we overplayed some players? Larry should mind his own business, worry about his own team.

Q. What went into your thinking, you had Nieuwendyk out with Grant Marshall and Muller -- that was a different combination, plus everybody healthy; anybody dinked?

COACH HITCHCOCK: Injury-wise we have not got nothing -- we are going to change our lineup tomorrow. We will bring in two or 3 forwards anyways. But what we did was we used three centers. We didn't play Lyashenko really after the first period or first period half we went with three centers just Nieuwendyk Modano were back on stride again so why not take advantage of it. They had Holik Arnott coming all the time; Madden took only faceoffs, they only used those two big guys and Gomez in the neutral zone, offensive zone, we let two big guys go. We used four sets of wingers with three centericemen. It ended up swinging where we would in the first half of periods, we'd double Nieuwendyk; last half of periods we would double Modano.

Q. At any point during the organized chaos (inaudible) Playoff game did you get sense that you were being part of something very special?

COACH HITCHCOCK: You know what, not really until we finally found our hotel last night and got to sleep, but it was -- I don't know where the heck we stayed. I never seen this place before, but you do -- when you get up in the morning you realize what you just went through. We are talking about this as coaches, you are so singularly focused - I apologized today to some people here, I just walked by people. I did interviews last night. I didn't know who I was doing interviews with. You are so singularly focused at that time that all you're worried about and all you are concerned about are your players and trying to win a hockey game. The time and -- you know, there was a time even in New Jersey they just took the shot clock off the side, we couldn't find the shot clock 'til we looked up at the big clock. The game just became a game after a while. I think that you just -- live so much in the moment that you forget what you are just going through. Then I think that there also is a feeling that towards the end where I don't know if you saw it, but the shooters, they couldn't get -- there wasn't enough leg strength or arm strength to get any mustard on any shots so guys could have gone on forever if not for the tip-in there.

Q. Do you have any sense now that you have had a chance to analyze it how much that one goal changes the whole psychology of the series and also do you marvel sometimes at the randomness of one shot that gets tipped to go in when a million could have gone either way?

COACH HITCHCOCK: You know what, I find that we all start off here as coaches with X's and O's, we all have a game plan. At a certain stage in the series the game becomes just emotion and enthusiasm. That is where it is at now. It is straight emotion enthusiasm. It doesn't matter what we say, technically our players are gone there. They are into the emotion. When you see guys wearing the ugliest suits and you see Brent Severyn's shirt come back into play from last year, you see all of that stuff coming out. You know you are dealing with just straight emotion. And that is where this series is at. Do we have it on our side? I don't know. I know one thing that we have got a hockey team that can hardly wait to come to the rink right now and that wasn't the case two days ago.

Q. You concern yourself with keeping guys fresh in between overtime periods or do you notice certain guys get fatigued; certain guys don't; is that something you think about?

COACH HITCHCOCK: I said this last night, this is really familiar territory for us. We have been through this. We went through this in the Edmonton series and that game against Edmonton is the game that helped us so much in the Playoffs this year and last year because that game we felt if we could do -- if we can get through that game we could get through anything. We know how to deal with ourselves medically, physically, there are certain things that we learned about bringing extra fluids with us, about not having to run to Seven 11 to by the stuff halfway through the game or the second overtime or whatever. We learned those lessons and yesterday our players said this morning it was familiar territory. You just -- you go on auto pilot, you feel like you have been there before and the mind just takes over.

Q. (inaudible) as much as your top four did play last night, do you need to do anything different; do you expect them to feel any extra --

COACH HITCHCOCK: I don't know that they are going to feel any extra effect. They have got -- they are still a little bit in the driver's seat here. They have got to win one game. We have got to win two games. I think if we expect to win tomorrow we are going to have to be a better team - the better team. In other words, if we leave this thing up for grabs again, then you know, just on odds alone, it could go in their favor. I think if we are going to expect to win tomorrow, we are going to have to be the better team in more areas than we are right now. In other words, we have got to play better than we did yesterday. We played well. But they played well too. And if we expect to win, we have got to beat them in more areas than we are beating them in right now because they are still -- this thing -- they still are controlling a lot of the areas. We have got some control back in some of them. But not near enough to say, look, we deserve to win this game because we outplayed them. We are not there yet.

Q. Is it a coincidence that your team has won on the road or have they played differently on the road?

COACH HITCHCOCK: No, I think the best two periods we played in this series were the two periods we played in Game 4. That is best two periods we have played and then we followed it with 4 minutes of mistakes. That is that third period motivated us to play yesterday. We just felt very strongly as coaches and players that we did not want to leave ourselves with that empty feeling that we felt after Game 4. We did it to ourselves. And you know, I am sure New Jersey has probably done that to other teams in the Playoffs, but we did it to ourselves, we felt and we just wanted to make amends for that. I think that is what motivated us more than anything; wouldn't have matter where we played that game yesterday.

Q. You had mentioned after Game 4 how that game ripped the heart out of you. How do you think last night -- what will that do to the Devils; will that take the heart out of their team?

COACH HITCHCOCK: No, there is too much at stake here. There is a championship at stake. They are coaching staff is -- I mean, they have got --- they have got those three guys that have won before. They have got those three guys that know how to bring this thing back into even keel. They probably feel good about themselves too. They had chances just like we did. I don't think that you can sit there and say that -- the momentum we have is a little bit on the emotional side of things. That is what we gained from yesterday. We are going home. But you know, they got to feel good about themselves too. I just feel like the difference makers still has to be us. If the game is played the way it is right now, it is up for grabs and the law of averages still are in their favor. We have to change the law of averages. We have to outplay them in more areas than we are outplaying them right now.

Q. (inaudible) statistics on the game sheet last night has you being ahead 62 to 26.

COACH HITCHCOCK: Well, we were talking about that. I mean, some of those stats are so bizarre at times that you don't believe them. But I think the one thing that is relevant and I know this is twisting it around a little bit that is a good stat for us. It means for the first time we had the puck for the first time in this series we at least had the puck. That is how we felt as the game started to wind down halfway through the second period for the first time, it felt like we had the puck, we were able to make plays; we were spending time hanging on to it in the areas we had to. We weren't getting knocked off it like they have done to us in Philadelphia at the end of their series, so we feel it is a good stat. When you have -- you know there is other stats there like the giveaways, things like, that. I think those are relevant at times, but I thought yesterday for the first time we felt that that was more of a positive than a negative.

Q. There are travel woes, did it become comical or people complaining you go through all this, trivial as it is, is it one of the things that helps the team get through a season?

COACH HITCHCOCK: I think that today's travel -- yesterday's hunt for the hotel and then you know, the travel today, with the weather and everything, we just been through this so much. For us to come back late -- the reason we stayed over was that we just we felt very strongly that we needed to stay on the same schedule as if you were playing a normal hockey game. We felt if we would have got back at 6:30 or 7 o'clock in the morning, we would have been at a disadvantage trying to reorganize a day. It is a little easier when you have two days off between, but with one day off we just -- we had made a decision in the morning of the game that if it -- if it went past the first overtime, we were staying. Then we were scrambling to find the hotel.

Q. Could you possibly elaborate on what Brent Severyn's shirt back in play means?

COACH HITCHCOCK: When you say Marty Turco you see that ugly bloody shirt, you will know what I mean.

Q. Undershirt?

COACH HITCHCOCK: No, it is an actual shirt. Is it a Hawaiian shirt. It is worse than yours (Laughter.)

Q. Could you find yourself able to enjoy that game as it was going on? Not after you won it -- some of your players talked about enjoying it as it was happening, can you enjoy it?

COACH HITCHCOCK: Yeah, I think that is where everything is oblivious. You don't -- you are -- the referees become irrelevant. They just let you play. The fans become irrelevant. It is just two teams going at it on the ice and it gets to the point where you just say the heck with the matchups, let us just play because I didn't -- I was just watching my players play and I didn't care who was out or against who, we just sent them out on the ice; we watched them play. All we were looking for is who is in and who is out, who is dying, and who is not dying, and that was fun. I mean, that was the fun part of things. Then when you -- you see two goaltenders do what they did, then you know you are in something that is very, very special.

Q. How do you explain the huge advantage in faceoffs?

COACH HITCHCOCK: I don't know that. I'd like to look at the tape again because the side that we usually are lucky to break even on there is a certain side on the ice that we are fortunate to break even on, we had a high percentage. I don't know right now. I'd like to take a look at it because we know what side of the ice and which people we win most of the time on. But we won a lot on the other side of the ice, that is not common for us. I think sometimes when you get tired you start lose -- big part of winning faceoffs is your leg power. When you get tired, you start to lose them, but we for whatever reason, we won them with different people on the other side of the ice and we normally don't do that.

Q. Defensively speaking you mentioned second period that is where you felt the game had slowed down. Is that just a matter of your team sticking with the program and then as the game went on were you concerned with the chances the Holik line got; how do you evaluate the --

COACH HITCHCOCK: Holik had more chances than anybody on the ice, period. But I think that what happened was for the first time in this series we started to have the puck more and then whether the games slowed down tempo, I don't know, it was pretty slow there in that third overtime. But it just felt like we were gaining confidence on making plays under pressure, hanging onto the puck. Seemed our mind had caught up to the tempo. We weren't nervous in some areas and then we just started to play. I just felt like -- we have been at a disadvantage in that level because of the way Jersey has played. It is similar to the way Colorado was, similar to the way that other teams Buffalo came in with such a focus. It is like for us to win we have to take people out of focus to put us into focus. That is our game plan. I just felt like we started to do some things that we hadn't done before.

Q. Mike when came in earlier said he felt and the team felt that they won Game 5 they would be going to Game 7, do you have a similar feel?

COACH HITCHCOCK: No. I don't -- not really. I just -- I feel like right now that I feel pretty strongly about this too that if we expect to win Game 6 then we have to be better than that team; the same isn't going to cut it because, you know, the way that Brodeur and Belfour played, those things even out and those goaltenders aren't going to disappear from this series anymore. Both of them are playing so well. If we expect to win tomorrow we are going to have to be better than they are. We have got to find more areas to be better in. If we are the same I think we just throw it up for grabs. Then it is anybody's game.

Q. Did you have a team growing up that you watched that got down and had a big come back? Do you have a favorite comeback in sports history?

COACH HITCHCOCK: The one I will never forget is the one -- that is why I still hate Henri Richard is because in 1966 he elbowed that puck in the goal. He screwed my Red Wings, so..... I will keep going if you want.

Q. You talked about how you have to be better in some areas tomorrow in order to win but you also mentioned fact that this series is kind of become raw emotion on both sides, your guys were just up here talking about how it would really be painful to see New Jersey Devils skater on their ice with Stanley Cup. That is an intangible that your team takes into this thing is pretty strong?

COACH HITCHCOCK: Well, I think that it is our job as coaches and as management to help the players with the emotion. We know where it's got to go to. We know how jacked up we got to be; that is where we are at. If we have got some things in our plate, we have been in this business a little while, we have got some things that we can do as coaches and as management to bring this thing to a higher level. That is what I meant by outplaying. I think the area that we have got to outplay them in the emotional side of things, we have got to be better in that area and more consistent in that area and we have got to help the players know. We have got to find some ways to help the players over the next 24 hours.

Q. Going back to something you said earlier you said two days ago (inaudible) seemed like wanted to come to the rink. Coming out of the Colorado series and for the whole first four games of this series didn't seem like the team was having any fun or it wanted to be in the rink in any of those games. Why was that? Are you lucky to be in the series considering that was the mindset early on?

COACH HITCHCOCK: I think the mindset was we knew we were up against, but we were up against an opponent that was right on the mark and still is right on the mark. They are a great team. They have got a lot of elements that a lot of teams would love to have. When you are used to winning, losing sucks and I think that from our standpoint we weren't having fun because we were getting taken out of our own game. That is very discouraging. I think our team, we were reflection of that because we were making uncharacteristic mistakes and New Jersey was forcing to us do those things, but we stood pretty firm yesterday. We hung in there.

End of FastScripts…

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