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June 1, 2000

Ken Hitchcock


Q. Do you expect the game to be officiated any differently? The other night I don't think the first penalty was called 'til, what, the last minute of the second period. There were only three or four all night.

COACH HITCHCOCK: I sure hope so, because it is tough having powerplay meetings with nothing to talk about. It was a shorter meeting (inaudible).

Q. Any update on Langenbrunner?

COACH HITCHCOCK: Not a player today..... No, he is not. He is better, but he's not ready.

Q. Are you more concerned with finding time to make plays at your end or limiting the time they had to make plays when they had the puck?

COACH HITCHCOCK: I think it is more making the right decisions with the puck. I think that we need to be sharper with the puck so that we are not dealing with all the counterattacks that were there. I think that when you have a focus like New Jersey has right now, where they are prepared to let you bring it into areas then trap it back on you, we are going to have to make sure we don't put it into those areas that other teams have gotten sucked into. So I said this yesterday, I think that we are the team that has to make some adjustments now. They have got real good focus going right now, and we have got to up our level a little bit here. We have got to up our level with the puck.

Q. Is there a fine line between putting Game 1 behind you, but also focusing on maybe some of the mistakes you made in trying to correct them?

COACH HITCHCOCK: I think it is easier for the players to put losses behind them. And especially with our group, I think that our group to a man feels that when the game was 1-1 and 2-1 that we had ourselves a heck of a hockey game. We feel that the missed chances -- which was close to halfway through the hockey game, then once it went 4-1, it really deteriorated. I think players have an easier time putting that stuff behind. As coaches, we were talking about this this morning. It is more difficult because your concerns are broader. Your concerns are -- I don't think it was any secret that we didn't have a lot of energy in our tank. So your concern is putting the fuel back in the engine again to get it running. So your concerns are broader. The picture with the players is much more narrow, and they can move on much easier than we can as coaches. They probably had a lot better day yesterday than we did.

Q. Have you spoken to Eddie this morning or exchanged that glance that you told us about yesterday, and any sense you got from him?

COACH HITCHCOCK: He feels good. A lot better today. He was not great yesterday, but felt a lot better today. And I am sure we are going to see a good performance from him.

Q. Did you talk to him, or was it just the glance?

COACH HITCHCOCK: No, we had a chat today.

Q. Did he say "I am feeling --"

COACH HITCHCOCK: Yeah, I asked him how he was. He said "good," so let's go.

Q. Going back to last year, your team is 8 and 0 in the Playoffs. After a loss, what is it about your guys -- you talked about losses after the first -- in the first couple of rounds about being challenge for your team.

COACH HITCHCOCK: I think this is really -- losing like we did really boils down to a pride factor within our group. We can't control how New Jersey plays, but we sure as heck can control how we play. We have got an awful lot of pride in this organization from the players and coaches standpoint also. I think that right now we got slapped pretty hard, and we need to respond in the right way as a group. We need to have a very, very strong team game. We feel if we have a strong team game then we can push teams like New Jersey or any other team into areas that maybe they are not comfortable in. We have an awful lot of pride in being able to do that. The test here is a little different because we have got to catch up, not only in our own game, but we have got to catch up our energy. If we can do that, and I see a lot different energy level today than I did yesterday and the day before, we are going to be okay. But we have got to catch that up. So we have got to catch up days up here with combination of the pride factor and get back in play in this series. If we do that, I think we can be very successful.

Q. How important is it to get a better performance from Nieuwendyk tonight?

COACH HITCHCOCK: I think that line has to become a factor in this series. I think that you look at, from an offensive standpoint, that Jersey's got really nine forwards that can contribute offensively. And they have nine forwards who can really control the tempo of the game. For us to be effective, we got a great performance from Lyashenko's line in Game 1. If we can get to match that nine forward performance, both teams fourth lines are specialty players and energy people. And if we can get to that level, then Nieuwendyk's group is going to have to become a factor in this series. But it is more that group of nine. They really can come at you and score. Any of those lines can score. And we have to have that same capability if we are going to be effective. Otherwise, we are going to be constantly trying to get away from a matchup rather than just playing power-on-power. And we are not a good team when we have to try to avoid matchups.

Q. Are you going to match differently tonight?

COACH HITCHCOCK: Yeah, well, I don't know that we are going to match differently. But for us to be effective, we are going to have to have a better checking influence on some people. We will be looking to do some of that stuff a little bit better. We are best when we can get in that atmosphere. But the problem was that when you are down 3-1, matchups almost become irrelevant because you are taken out of that atmosphere. I think for us, for our game to be effective, this game has to be close or in our favor for us to have an effective game, and that is what we pride ourselves in. But if we are down early and we are chasing the game, then matchups really become irrelevant. . . (inaudible).

Q. Game 2, an important game, does it enter into your thinking at all how well they have played on the road; lost just once on the road in overtime and you have to win at least once here? Does that increase the urgency?

COACH HITCHCOCK: I have never really thought how they played on the road, because I just watched how well they played at home. I think from our standpoint it is more all about us right now. I think that this is really the way they have been playing for pretty much -- I mean, other than five or six minutes in that Philadelphia series, this is pretty much how they have been playing since the start of Playoffs. They have got tremendous depth in certain areas. So for us to be effective, we just have to have more people at the top of their game. And you know what, we have shown the ability when we are pushed to the limit that we can do those things. But I think one thing that is changed in this series is that we are being pushed to the limit without home ice, and we are being pushed to the limit very early in the series. I think we have to have a quicker response. Getting down 2-nothing in a series puts a tremendous amount of pressure for us to have to win both home games to bring this even close, then even to think about winning the Game 5. This is really important for us. If we win tonight, this really becomes kind of a give-or-take series, where we can have a tremendous effect by what we do at home. But we have to have a much better performance in order to win, much better.

Q. It getting back to the matchups, would you like to see more of Hatcher and Matvichuk against the Arnott line than you had with Sydor and Zubov?

COACH HITCHCOCK: I think that again we had that matchup a little bit at the start, and when we got down and you need goals, you are going to go with a more transitional lineup. I think that Sydor and Zubov move the puck better than Matty and Hatch do, so you are looking to add, especially with Modano and Hull, you are looking to add some offensive spark to your group. So the downside is that they got scored on. Upside is that you are going to have to do some of those things when you get down early. I just think from our standpoint we are like a lot of teams in this League when you dig yourselves in an early hole, you really take yourself out of your own game focus. We are not a team -- we have been a low-scoring team all year. We have had trouble scoring goals all year and one thing when you don't score a lot of goals you can't afford to dig yourself a big hole. We did that after 30 minutes, we were down two or three goals.

Q. How does the atmosphere this year differ as a team from last year?

COACH HITCHCOCK: Well, last year was a magical ride and it was a magical ride in the fact that it just seemed everything we did turned out. We had health at the right time. We had big goals and big saves at the right time. We were really the best League in the League from the start to the end. We got pushed hard in some areas but we always had a response and we always seemed to -- everything just seemed to go our way at the right time. A lot of this year has been swimming upstream to be honest with you. We have had an awful lot of things that -- we have had tough luck with injuries. We have had some real battles with trying to get our focus generated. But you know what, we are here and we got here because of a lot of character; a lot of pride in what we do. We are four wins away from reaching the goal again. I think our players haven't lost focus of that. There has been a lot of situations that have gone on during the season that have been very difficult. Quite frankly, when you talk to other teams that have won before, they are very similar to what other teams go through. With the parity in this League, and with the competition in this League, everybody points at you. I remember I talked to one coach in another sport at the start of the year; he says what you are going to find out is it isn't one team that knocks you down. It is the cumulative effect of everybody thinking that it is their big chance that wears on you after a while. When you look at a team like Detroit, teams who have play Detroit after they won their second Cup it is very wearing. I think that our team deserves a lot of credit for being able to battle through that stuff.

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