June 12, 1999
BUFFALO, NEW YORK: Game Three
Q. I am sure you watched Mike Modano this morning. What did you see from him and do you anticipate he is going to play tonight?
KEN HITCHCOCK: Well, the players put it best, it is about time he feels like the rest of them and that is that he has got average hands; so far so good. We said this before, when you have got the ligament problem that he has, it is really his call because there is no more damage so they can whack and hack all they want. There is no more damage that is going to be done to it. It is whether he can deal with the issues of shooting pucks and taking faceoffs and passing and he looked real good today. So far so good. We will see how he feels later in the afternoon. But right now I see no reason -- I think he put it best: This is such an important time for both teams, we view this as a very critical game. There is a lot of pressure on the home team in Game 3 likes there is on the home team in Game 2 and if we can apply more of it to Buffalo and we can get a win tonight then it would make us feel good and I don't think he wants to miss that.
Q. The five games you played this year without Modano did, you see anything that would concern you if he did not play tonight?
KEN HITCHCOCK: Well, I think he takes -- I think we can replace Mike offensively short-term. I don't think there is any question we have got people like Plante and Hrkac but it is the detailed part of the games that you miss Modano in. Those are the defensive responsibilities, first and last minute of the periods; key times, you know, killing penalties, you know, protecting the lead. He just -- he is such a complete player now. I mean, he is not a one-dimensional player. He plays hard in the hard areas. I think those details are what has given us a chance to move up the ladder as a team and we would miss that part of it, big time.
Q. You had said before the series and even a few times earlier in the season talking about Eddie Belfour that when he came to Dallas - I hope I am paraphrasing correctly - he had some defense mechanisms built up from other stops that he had to break down. Can you elaborate on that?
KEN HITCHCOCK: I think the thing with Eddie is that -- he has come from a situation where emotion and intensity were a big part of the organizations that he played in, coaching staff-wise, and -- I think -- I think as he moved along he became almost protective of his turf and his area. He had some difficulty in Chicago towards the end. There were some conflict there. There was some obvious conflict with some situations that went on in San Jose that he became very defensive about. To be honest with you, the first year that he came to us, a lot of those mechanisms were still in place. They were difficult for him and for us and for everybody. Bottom line is, Ed Belfour had to make a decision whether 80% of Ed Belfour was as good as he was going to get at that time and as good as most of the goalies in the League because he was having a very difficult time living with the fact that he wasn't feeling the same as he was when he was 23 and 24 years old and it put up a lot of defense mechanisms. He was really having a tough time with it. It came to a head in Pittsburgh his first year and he went out and played and he didn't feel 100%. He played real well and our relationship, coach/player and player/player started to make some big turns for the better and it has just improved on a daily basis since then.
Q. I got to just ask you about Modano: If he decides to play tonight and he is obviously not going to be 100%, would you consider moving him to another -- like another line or just to protect him maybe move him to the wing so he doesn't have to take faceoffs?
KEN HITCHCOCK: I think if he can't play on a regular basis and there the middle there, then we won't play him. I think that we have people who are hungry, Plante and Hrkac who can do a better job if Mike is not mentally ready to play or physically ready to play. If we see that there is difficulty with faceoffs then we have other people who are very good at it. We would probably consider moving a guy like Sydor up and start taking faceoffs again; start playing as a forward or start playing as a forward killing penalties. So we would be looking at maybe doing some of those things if he wasn't able to. But other than faceoffs, he is going to have to play every situation; he is going to have to play his 20, 25, 30 minutes, whatever it takes tonight; he is going to have to be a player in that atmosphere or else he is not going to get in.
Q. (inaudible) you said he said he hasn't felt physically when he did at 23 or 24 physically or mentally ....
KEN HITCHCOCK: Physically. And physical led to all the mentality ailments. He had a serious back injury that never healed properly. It affected everything because he lost -- he felt people bailed on him and didn't trust him, so he lost trust with people. He couldn't get people to understand how serious the injury was and that he came to Dallas; he met some people that were specialists in it, and they discovered that there was some real serious problems with it and then once the maintenance program started with him - he has got a heavy day maintenance-wise, very heavy, and it is seven days a week, but he feels better physically now than he has ever felt in his life but has been almost two years of rehab since that injury.
Q. You might say Satan is their equivalent of Brett Hull in the fact that they rely on him for scoring goals. Hull has the two goals in the series. Satan hasn't been a factor at all really for Buffalo. Why is that and do you expect that to change?
KEN HITCHCOCK: I think it is going to change. I think it is going to change here. We are going to have to pay attention to it. I think that Satan and Sanderson haven't been maybe offensive factors like people maybe thought they would be. But they have been a factors in a number of areas. They have backed our defensemen off. Satan has just been excellent on the powerplay. He is difficult because he is so patient with the puck and he does a lot of other things that maybe pure scorers don't do. But I think the biggest thing what that we have got going for us is -- I really think they goal like Brown goals. I think the key guy to that line is Curtis Brown. He might be playing the best of any forward in this series right now.
Q. In light of your comments the other day about goalies, your opinion about goalies being fair game when they are out of the crease, do you expect the Sabres to rough up Belfour a little bit every time he goes to play the puck tonight?
KEN HITCHCOCK: I think first of all, I don't mean that goaltenders are fair game when they leave the crease. Our difficulty with Hasek is two areas: The first area is when the puck is loose, and he doesn't have it and their defensemen don't have it, we feel it is as much our puck than his. He wants the ability to go and get it. We don't want to be fenced off buy a goaltender. It is difficult enough going through two defensemen let alone a goaltender with his big rear-end sitting out there protecting that area. We want that puck. So if he is in that area, he has either got to get out or he is going to get run over, bottom line, because we want it. If he has got the puck and he is playing it, then physically, he shouldn't be dealt with. That is what I said yesterday that Skrudland's situation should have been a penalty. In our opinion, either Modano's or Lang's (phonetic) or, whatever one was there, shouldn't have been a penalty. We feel that when the goaltender has the puck, he is not fair game. The other issue we have is with the stick and we said that yesterday. We feel that the stick, if it is outside the crease, it is fair game too. Get it out of there. He wants to use his feet to stop the puck; that is up to him, but get that stick out of there because we want to score. In the situation with -- Belfour put it best: He spent five years against Probie. It was three runs per game, Probie got to him, Ed got one of them, so nothing is going to happen tonight that Ed hasn't seen before.
Q. Will the decision on Mike's status be solely Mike's decision? Will you have a hand in it after watching him pre-game? Will the doctors? How will all that shake out?
KEN HITCHCOCK: I think it is Mike's call. But he knows the parameters of the call right now. He knows that he is in all the way -- either in all the way, or he is out. There is no in between. I don't think as a team we can afford to do that right now. We feel like mentally and physically that is where he is going to have to be at and I feel like right now that if we keep moving ahead during the afternoon, he feels good as he does right now, I see no reason that he can't play.
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