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June 16, 1999

Ken Hitchcock

DALLAS, TEXAS: Practice Day

KEN HITCHCOCK: How is Hull? He was doubtful the last time, so he is questionable which means he is one step away from probable. Hull basically skated today for 30 minutes, felt not bad. And will be in a full situation before practice tomorrow and will be in the pre-game skate and then we will be able to evaluate it at that time. But he felt a lot better today.

Q. (inaudible)

KEN HITCHCOCK: We made a couple of individual mistakes, but we played a good game, a very good game. But I thought Buffalo played an exceptionally good game and they played very strong and they played the way that they had to win and I thought we did some really good things ourselves. In both times that they scored there were times when we had really had strong momentum going, especially the second goal because there was a feeling on our bench before that goal went in that there was a lot of good things happening and that the wheel was really turning the other way and then when they scored that goal they had a couple of shifts that were strong and it was funny because all of their offense in the second period was -- the two times they got us on 5-on-5 was after we had spent all kinds of time in their end and then we had to come back into our end with tired people. So they really did it from a defending base. They defended hard and they won because of that. I think that, you know, we are certainly not disappointed with our effort, not by a long shot. I think that it just shows you the distance that both teams have to go emotionally and physically to try to win a game.

Q. Four great shifts before that bad bounce goal; you were (inaudible) --

KEN HITCHCOCK: And you think that was frustrating for me and probably was visible on television; is that it? (LAUGHTER)

Q. Probably?

KEN HITCHCOCK: (laughs) Was that -- boy, my wife gave it to me for that, whoah. (LAUGHTER) That and spitting, whoah. But it was one of those things where it was really frustrating for everybody and our emotion dropped a little bit then they came on for a couple of shifts.

Q. What would Brett Hull do if you get --

KEN HITCHCOCK: Probably a goal if he played yesterday. He has played well in all of these games in these playoffs. Played better and better, has the series went on. Even if he comes in as a fourth-line player and even in the role of specialist. We can play 10 or 12 minutes, that is going to help us immensely because he is such a competitive person from the red line in. He is one of the most competitive people that I have coached in that area and if he can bring that element to the game and if Benny can get in, if Hogue can get in here now we have got two weighted players that can really come in and help us.

Q. Status with Hogue and let's go back on the line with Nieuwendyk and Langenbrunner or (inaudible) --

KEN HITCHCOCK: I don't think so. I say that is a good line for us now. But Hogue is available for our selection and we are leaning at playing him. And I am not sure where we will play him right now; we have got some options. He has played with Modano before and played very well. And if Hull is available then you know, it will be great news. That will really leave Marshall, that is the only guy out of the lineup which is great news for us.

Q. Any adjustments given the fact that Peca played so well against the new line?

KEN HITCHCOCK: Yeah, I don't understand why people are saying that because, quite frankly, he didn't play against him towards the end. And Nieuwendyk's line, they had as much bite in the game yesterday as they did any other time. I don't understand that logic. We don't mind that matchup at all. I am sure they don't mind it. It is a good matchup for maybe both teams. But we are not prepared to change the matchup there at all. We like it. If that is the line that he has got to play against, then great, maybe it opens up something else, but I thought Nieuwendyk's line, there was some time at the start of the game where, you know, they had got -- some of their players are -- had got after him physically but prior to the end of the game when you look at the chances for us scoring-wise, Nieuwendyk is in the, Nieuwendyk's line is in the middle of most of team.

Q. Talk about how similar this series is to the Colorado series and if I remember correctly this time in the Colorado series you are calling for more offense. Has that changed?

KEN HITCHCOCK: I was calling for more offense, me?

Q. Well, 2-1 games --

KEN HITCHCOCK: These games are 2-1 because of the guys on goal. They are not 2-1 because of the style of the game. There is a lot of scoring chances. They are 2-1 only because of the goaltenders. There is a tremendous amount of scoring chances down low play by everybody, a lot of work. These games are 2-1 because of the goaltenders, these games could easily be 4-3, 5-3 for either team based on these scoring chances. I don't think that you can call for more goals. You might be able to call, for instance for them in Game 4, they obviously wanted to have more physical play and that might be something that we probably need to answer a little bit. We probably could be a little more physical. But I think if you start calling for goals, you are putting the cart ahead of the horse because I think before you even get into that area about scoring you are going to have to get into the area of work.

Q. Do you expect in a series this tight that the Star players will be the ones (inaudible) --

KEN HITCHCOCK: I think they can throw you over the top at times. I think that the strength of our team all year has been our ability to come at you with a one-two punch. What I mean by that, if Nieuwendyk's line gets shut down; then Modano's line is being able to muster up and play. We have been able to counteract other teams' checking patterns against us. If Hull comes back into the mix or we use Hogue or we use something different with Modano to give that line a little bit of jump, then -- you feel as a coach if you have got two lines that you can count on to get scoring chances, then I think you can feel like you are very, very effective every night and you feel like you have got an advantage. Whether you do or not, the feeling is, look, they can shut down this line, but this line is going to do it offensively. I didn't think that Modano's line yesterday had the offensive chances that we need for us to win. They need to have more offensive chances for us to win and some of it is off the forecheck. Some of it is off the attack. But I think that that is an area that when we develop that one-two punch; it is harder to play against.

Q. I didn't get your first sound bite about Brett Hull. Can you --

KEN HITCHCOCK: He is moved from doubtful to questionable and questionable means that he will take two skates tomorrow, one before the team goes on the ice and then one during the pre-game skate. After that evaluation we will decide if he is a player for Game 5 or Game 6. But it now looks like he is a player in this series sometime in the next couple of games.

Q. Would you take that right to game time?

KEN HITCHCOCK: Yeah, we have to. I think we have to. It is an ongoing process. I think the next evaluation is full contact, and we want to do that before practice against some specific individuals and if he passes the next test, the test he passed today was good, but if he passes the next test then that moves him into that probable category but we can't do that. First we have to see how he is tomorrow morning after his exercises today and if he is sound and feels good then let's go to the next step.

Q. Some of your offensive players talking about how maybe the team needs develop a mind set winning a 1-0 hockey game --

KEN HITCHCOCK: I don't know that you need -- I think that is every coach's and player's goal so that -- it is an attitude. I always find that when -- in this game if you start putting pressure on yourself to score, to score, to score, you end up pressing so hard that you start giving it up on the back end, you start giving up odd-man rushes, you start creating play where everybody is stepping ahead all the time and you get out of sync. You always chasing things back into your own end. I think our players are saying that if we get a lead then we have got to continue to work hard our way and build it and if it has to stay 1-0, then it has to stay 1-0. But I think what we don't want to do is start exchanging here now and just because we think we need to get more goals, we start exchanging chances because Buffalo has got a lot of good offensive people.

Q. It was said that you won't see a 7-5 game....

KEN HITCHCOCK: I hope not. I think either team, you know, they took a different route coming here but I thought our team mentally and physically was pretty good today. I think we will just see the same type of game. I really feel like this is -- I have said this before start of series, I really feel like it is the last ten minutes of every game that seems to decide everything. I don't see that changing any.

Q. You have been saying all along this wasn't going to be easy?

KEN HITCHCOCK: The voice is that in this business and in Playoffs your attitude has to be dust off and move and our attitude right now is dust off and move. We are in a great situation. There is 25 or so other teams in the National Hockey League that would just die to be in our situation like Buffalo's. We have got a best of 3 going, two games at home for the biggest prize in our League and we would just like to be able to give ourselves a chance to take advantage of it by continuing to play great hockey. That is all our team is focused on and the interesting part in this business is both teams are very good at not dwelling and, you know, Buffalo, they had every opportunity in Game 4 to dwell on what happened in Game 3 and they shook it off and played well. We will do the same thing tomorrow. We could dwell on the loss, but we are not. We have got too many good things going in our game to dwell on that. We are more looking forward to playing.

Q. Talked about the one-two punch of Nieuwendyk and Modano. (inaudible) how important is it to get maybe a goal from one of those two lines? There have --

KEN HITCHCOCK: I thought Carbonneau's line the last two games got a lot of scoring chances. I think that line has been very, very effective for us. Better offensively than we thought they would be. We thought they would be more of a shut down line and Skrudland line has given us energy every game. Yesterday was difficult, you are down 2-1 you are trying to come back in a game that you know that Buffalo is trying to sit on it in the third period, but I think from our standpoint, that line has been just terrific. Whoever we have played there, even a guy like Jon Sim which is -- this is a rich game for John right now, but he has contributed; he has played well and Brian has given us energy every night which has really helped us.

Q. A lot of coaches through the Playoff first three rounds talked about the frustration of coaching against Buffalo because there is no clear offensive threat. Richard Smehlik is the leading scorer in the series. Do you sense it is kind of hard to look at them to shut that guy down --

KEN HITCHCOCK: I don't know that you look at shutting players down. I think there are individuals on their team that are sneaky good players. I think the thing is they have players who are very good offensive players who have reputations that aren't yet registered in the League, Satan and Sanderson. These are -- for impact players, these are young players. I mean, you are looking at players that are under 30 and they are young players for this League, but they are definitely dangerous players. I think we look at Brown as a very dangerous player. He doesn't need much space in time. I think that they have got three dangerous defensemen that are very good offensively. So I don't think that we look at one individual, but there are key components that we feel like we have to shut down. I think the big factor with them is that in order to beat a team like Buffalo you have to play a strong positional game right throughout your lineup because they have a lot of people like a guy like Dixon Ward who in past hockey was a scorer and has been a scorer throughout his career. So they don't need, even though he is in a checking role now-they don't need much of an opening to score. So I think it is more your team game. You have to be very careful and smart with it because if you give up an odd-man rush even if it's against a fourth line, they have got capable people.

Q. You dress Hull and Hogue, you do not dress Hrkac and Sim, is that -- what do you --

KEN HITCHCOCK: Come and talk to me about 1030 tomorrow night. I will let you know.

Q. There are some who say this is turning into what could be a classic NHL Stanley Cup Finals. You are in the middle of it. Do you realize how it is evolving; how do you see it?

KEN HITCHCOCK: Well, I think that -- we just see this as two really competitive teams trying to win. I think that that stuff you talk about at the end, you know, it is hard -- it is hard to -- in such a daily struggle right now it is hard to get a big picture. That is what Bob said to us last night on the airplane. He said this is just a great series, you got two teams just with so much passion and character going at it, and it is just such -- it is so good for the game of hockey. We have trouble looking at it like that. We are not really looking at what is good for the game of hockey right now. We are looking at what is good for our team. That is something that you discuss at the end of the season. But I think right now we recognize that the season that we have gone through and the series that we have gone through, it is a special season and we just don't want this season to end, but we recognize now as we are moving along these last three series have been the best hockey that any of us have played in or coached in and it is a special season. I think at the end we will feel the same way win or lose.

Q. With all that in mind with a veteran team as you get deeper in the series do you sense your team has gotten hungrier to win the Stanley Cup?

KEN HITCHCOCK: I don't know that that it's gotten hungrier, I think -- we have always had this attitude that the younger players are playing for the older players. I think there is more of a sense of urgency in that area now. I think we are talking more about -- you hear some of younger players saying, you know, we have got to play now for these older guys, and I think that is the only thing that has been kind of consistent throughout Playoffs is that, you know, we have got some older players you never know when it is going to be over for them; you want to give them that hoorah when it is there and it is close right now, it is there. We think we smell that opportunity.

Q. Where does Hatcher fit into that? Can you put into words what it is like having a horse like that --

KEN HITCHCOCK: Well, I just -- it is like -- there is a feeling that everything is okay when he is on the ice. There is this feeling when Derian plays that -- like yesterday, some people were talking about Buffalo, them taking runs at him and he just loves that. He just absolutely loves it. He is at his worst when you leave him alone. I think that he is a player right now that -- I don't think because he doesn't get the offensive numbers that people look and say, you know, he is an offenseman but he is a defenseman, he is a true defenseman. He is a special player that way because he can absorb so many minutes and they are always critical minutes. He doesn't play much on the powerplay. And he is a player that, as the game moves on he gets stronger and stronger which you just love in a personality. He has a competitive meanness to him that -- to me sometimes when I look at him it is scary at times.

Q. Guys like him don't seem to win the -- can you imagine another team in the League that is counting on a guy as much over the last few years you have been counting on this guy?

KEN HITCHCOCK: Well, I think St. Louis has the same feeling with Pronger. I think Pronger's games elevated now because he has got some offensive numbers to go with it. But I think we count on these two guys the same way where they just -- they dig you out of so much trouble all the time, you know, they are -- they are special players. I mean, they are special players because they just -- they refuse to go down. I mean it is amazing what they do.

Q. (inaudible)

KEN HITCHCOCK: I don't think he puts his next contact in danger. I think what he is doing right now is he is saying the future is now and I think what he does is -- I think like all of us know, he is delaying the inevitable here. I think he is willing to take that chance for a shot at the prize. I admire him for it. He has been given the choice and his choice is to play. He is healthy. He is in the same physical positioning as Matvichuk is. And he knows eventually he is going to have to have that operation but he wants to take that chance.

Q. Hockey is different that way in that players will take that extra step physically to try to --

KEN HITCHCOCK: I think you see that in older players; not in players that are older that are playing, but the people that are retired, I mean, physically it is a very demanding sport and you see people that are in their 50s and 60s right now that you know, it has been a struggle for some of these guys physically. That is the thing that you worry about with a guy like Hogue, you know that he has taken a risk here because he is really bumped his next year back one month right now. He has bumped it back one month almost to the day. Hopefully somebody sees that and appreciates it. I know we do.

Q. If he gets the surgery -- December --

KEN HITCHCOCK: He is right now a December player.

Q. You kind of alluded to this last night. Do you think the two days between games played into --

KEN HITCHCOCK: Played into it a little bit. There is an upside and downside it to. We thought it would be a bigger upside than it was for us. It is funny with our players, the comment this morning was that they felt achey, the older players felt achey and meaning that they had the chance to start to get sore and they didn't have the energy -- they were commenting today they felt better today this morning than they did in the morning skate in Buffalo and it is one of those things when you are an older player and you get more and more time to reflect on how sore you are, it is hard and I think right now our players feel like they would like to play every second day and I think that it is funny because this is the second time we have gone through this and our players felt the same way in one of the other series previous that the older guys were sore. Younger guys felt great, but the older guys felt sore and they didn't perform as well as I thought they would.

Q. (inaudible)

KEN HITCHCOCK: It is funny when we won Game 3 all of our focus was we get home ice back and if we can push another game then we get Game 7 back to our building, but then all of the talk turned to: It is over, it is over, it is over. And to me, when you are on the ice playing, I don't think what people fail to realize is Game 3 was as big aberration as Game 1 was. Game 1 all the energy came out of our game in Game 1 because of our lack of production on the powerplay. I felt like all of their energy left Game 3 because of their lack of production on the powerplay. I think both those games are out the window. I think Game 2 and Game 4 are the reads of this series, and we played a great game in Game 4 and they still pushed us hard and we played pretty well last night. We pushed them hard but they played even better last night but I think those are the reads of the series. I think 1 and 3 you can throw out of window because of the lack of production on the powerplay.

End of FastScripts....

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