June 15, 1999
BUFFALO, NEW YORK: Game Four
Q. Are you going to let Hull take the pre-game skate, then make a decision or has it been decided?
KEN HITCHCOCK: He is out. No matter what he says, he is out. (LAUGHTER)
Q. Are you making any other lineup changes?
KEN HITCHCOCK: I think we want to take it to game time. We have some interesting decisions. Obviously Hogue is feeling really good and looks like he is going to be a player in this series at sometime. Which is great news for us. We have the option of Hrkac or Sydor on that left side that we will use during the game. And that fourth line position, we are not really sure. We are not sure if we want to play 11 and 7 tonight, bringing Lukowich into the fold or if we want to bring Sim or Plante in, so we will take it right to game time and then make a decision. But we have got the people in place. They know what their roles are. They know where they want to go. It is just a matter of how this game plays out to start with.
Q. Does Brett know of the decision and if so, how did he take it?
KEN HITCHCOCK: He knows about the decision and he took it okay. I just -- he is not ready. Bottom line is he is not ready to start the process and it is not like he needs a week of skating or he needs -- he just needs to be pain-free. It is not good enough to perform at the level that we need him to perform at and he knows that. He is fighting it; which is great, he wants to get back in. We are real hopeful that he is a player quickly in this series, but he is not a player tonight. But he really is day-to-day. I mean, he feels better today than he did yesterday, but not good enough to be a productive player. This is going to be a very reved up hockey game and we just can't afford to have anybody out there that isn't 100% in his mind no matter where his body is at.
Q. There is a story in a Buffalo paper today that before the series Lindy Ruff called some of his old coaching friends, Bowman and Quenneville, Roger Neilson just getting some ideas how to defeat the Stars. What do you lean on or talk to about Buffalo?
KEN HITCHCOCK: Jacques's phone number is 613-787 -- (laughs). You know what, we prefer to do it a different way and I am lucky. I have got a guy like Bob Gainey who has been through this as a player; as a general manager; as a coach and I lean on him hard. He is able to give me information and the consequences, like, for instance, yesterday, we had a meeting he told me I was talking too much so I shut-up today a little bit. Just little things that work that mean the big difference. I think that I am the lucky product of people who have won before Jarvis and Gainey have won at this level a lot and I am the product of being able to get that information. And the information is not gray. It is very black and white and it also is information that they already know what the end result will be. So I lean heavily on those two guys and I -- I have some friends on other teams like Lindy does, but I prefer to stay within the bubble as much as possible.
Q. There are obviously difficult times for coaches, cutting a guy in training camp; sending people down. You talk about letting people know at game time. How tough is it to tell a guy that he is not in when it's the Stanley Cup Final?
KEN HITCHCOCK: I think that is -- that is a good question. I think right now that the decision that you make with your team is earlier than this, though. I think you have to make -- the players on your team -- you have to make a decision as a group whether you are a group of 25 or whether you are group of 20. Our players, we have really been drawing from a group of about 25 players. Our group is together as 25. Now, 20 only play, but those five guys are just as important and we have been working on this program since September having people understand -- it doesn't matter if you are in or out, you are still a part of the group. Sometimes that is hard. Sometimes that is frustrating for players. But I think as long as they know that they have value and as long as they know that they are going to be needed at sometime, they can stay focused and energized. The problem that happens is we have been at this thing almost two months now and some people have not been in the lineup at all. Those players are having a very difficult time on our team as they would on any other team and those are the toughest challenges for you as a coach because you don't want to have those players take away from the actual group. It is a difficult challenge more with the people that have never been in than the people that have had little trinkets like Sim or Lukowich or these type people.
Q. Is Hogue better this morning? Did he come out of the skate yesterday even better than you thought he would and, thus, you think of him more as a potential player tonight than maybe you even did yesterday?
KEN HITCHCOCK: Yeah, I think for those people in Dallas that know the Matvichuk situation, his injury was exactly the same as Richard's. And Matty plays without an ACL, that is the bottom line, so will Benoit. There is no risk of injury other than the normal risk of injury that goes on with any of these things. But the focus after yesterday's skate was conditioning. He was sore, but he wasn't sore in the knee but he was sore from being put through a pretty heavy day. Benny's day didn't start on the ice here at two o'clock. He started at 7:00 A.M. and he was running the river there at 7:00 A.M. with Jimmy. So it was a long day for him and he was sore last night. He got up this morning; he felt great, and I don't know if he is a player tonight or Game 5, but he is in the mix now.
Q. How hopeful are you that Hull will be ready for Game 5?
KEN HITCHCOCK: I am not sure. I really am not sure. I have no idea, you know, if he is going to be a player in Game 5 at all based on where he is at today. We are hopeful, but I really -- I couldn't even tell you if he is probable or doubtful. I really don't have a clue right now. He has made significant progress and I think our next step is to get him on the ice and see where it goes to. But he is not ready to go on the ice right now. He might be able to go on and just glide around, but he is not ready to go on the ice as a full-time player not yet.
End of FastScripts....