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June 10, 1999

Ken Hitchcock


KEN HITCHCOCK: I was reading all those articles. It's even wearing me out.

Q. If you do make any changes what effect did the changes bringing in new guys and have on the guys who are already in the lineup?

KEN HITCHCOCK: Well, I don't know that it is so much bringing new guys in. I think there is some stuff that we can do that would help some of our guys. I think there is some stuff that we can do that would help some of our guys. We have been through a lot. We have been through 13, actually 14 grueling games and a lot of overtimes. I just feel that we can help some of our older players right now and give them a little jump by moving some different people around, Blake Sloan, or Hrkac or Plante, whatever we decide to do based on what Buffalo puts in tonight. We could easily help ourselves here because people like Carbonneau and Verbeek, Mike Keane, these people have given us extraordinary minutes and we played six, seven, eight overtime games in the last little while. You know what it is like in overtime playing a lot of extra minutes. So we need to just help ourselves along here and try and keep our energy as high as it can be.

Q. Have you told the guys that are going in whether or not they are going in or is this something you are going to do after the skate?

KEN HITCHCOCK: I think we are just telling people to be ready to play. I think that Hrkac and Plante and Sim know that and they are preparing every day as players and when it is time to go it is time to go. I think that from our standpoint we are looking at the one guy that we are leaning on for sure regardless of the situation is, Tony, he would be a guy that we would definitely look like trying to bring in. He brings in a lot to a group. He is 100% now and hopefully he can help us.

Q. Could your veteran players (inaudible). . . .

KEN HITCHCOCK: After three years with me here our players are pretty much ready for anything. I think that our situation is that we look at our team as groups -- especially our forward lines, we look at it as groups, as twosomes, not threesomes, so we do this all the time. We have done this really for three years since I have been here and if we feel that there is a boost that is needed on a certain line, then we will make that play. In the same situation if we feel that there is a definitive checking group that needs to be addressed like, say, Brown's line tonight then we will put particular people against that group and try to focus in on that area.

Q. (inaudible)

KEN HITCHCOCK: I think what we were going to do is -- it will depend on what Buffalo does tonight. Buffalo really doesn't play in a four-line concept. They play 12 forwards but they move people in and out. So if this isn't going to be a definitive four-line game, then we are going to have to do the same thing I think to adjust properly. So Hrkac has played some left wing and we feel comfortable with him there if he is going to play there, but also I think we would be prepared to play Skrudland in the middle or Plante in the middle in that group then keep Tony on the left.

Q. How does Verbeek add to that line?

KEN HITCHCOCK: Verbeek is a player that adds to any line, but I think Verbeek is the player that is going to get moved. He seems to have a lot of jump right now. He was hurt for a little while. He wasn't able to play, but long-term it seems to have really helped Pat and I think he has got a lot of jump right now and we look to take advantage of that as much as possible.

Q. (inaudible)

KEN HITCHCOCK: To be honest with you I didn't know Derek as a player. Again, because he is on the other division and he didn't play against us, so I really don't know that -- I didn't know that much about him as a player. With our organization, to be honest with you, he is still on the learning curve. We had a tough group to crack here right now. We have got -- I guess the surprising part for us was Hrkac. We didn't expect Hrkac to be as good a player. He was really brought in as a depth player, but he has played such a strong role for us that I think it became harder for Derek to push Tony out and we actually brought Derek in because we felt that the wear and tear on Skrudland and Carbonneau would be dramatic. But I don't know what has happened to both of them, especially Carbonneau. But they seem to have gotten second wind here in the Playoffs.

Q. How long has Hrkac be ready to go for?

KEN HITCHCOCK: Really he could have played in Game 1. But that is about it. It was a very, very serious injury. We didn't recognize it. Neither did Tony at the start, but there was a lot of cracked ribs there and he has had to go through the process of healing. It was really almost similar break in a bone and he is healthy now and ready to go.

Q. In an emotional series like this with all its ups and downs, what is the value of having some guys -- been through (inaudible)

KEN HITCHCOCK: You know what, the best thing about having experienced players is that they can cut through the rhetoric. They can cut through the politics in your dressing room. They can cut through masking. Sometimes you get into teams and you get protective of your little areas and things. Veteran players who are real strong contributors and competitors on your team, they can mask through the situation. They can -- they have the ability to make your team and the players look themselves in the mirror. We have great guys like that; especially Ludwig and Carbonneau, Skrudland and in particular in the Playoffs, Keane, where they are prepared to be stand-up guys and say, look, we need to do this better, this better or, look, the coaches are telling us something here, listen directly, don't get your own thoughts going this way; what they are saying is right; follow it. I think our leaders really stood up after Game 5 in the Colorado series. I have said this before. For our team to be able to make those adjustments was strong leadership because we needed people to follow us and the plan directly and quickly and those people stood up. I think that is where they are really critical.

Q. A little emotional stability....

KEN HITCHCOCK: I don't know about emotional stability. I think if anything they are in most cases the people that provide your passion. I think on any team you have leaders and you have followers. If you are going to have a strong team you have to have both. You can't have a bunch of leaders and a bunch of followers. But where your leaders need to lead in Playoffs and we found that is in the passionate level and we have had very strong passionate play at critical times. I just feel like tonight we are going to have that same thing where we need it badly. We are in a desperate situation, we are going to have to play that way. We have got a team like Buffalo who has a lot of confidence from the way they played the last two series, and we are going to have to take some of that back.

Q. What did you say today, anything, as far as mood of the guys, energy?

KEN HITCHCOCK: I just liked their 20 minutes that we were on the ice for and we just talked about how the balance of the day would go, a little bit about what was said about our team after Game 1 and how we could answer the bell and be a little bit better. Like I said before, I find at this time of the year when you have got a team that is really tight and together like both these teams are, the players are harder on themselves than coaches are. I think if the coach gets too hard on his team at this time of year it becomes a very difficult situation for your players. I think that the players themselves have told everybody here and the media exactly what they feel and I think that you will find both teams will keep this thing 5-on-5 as much as possible and I think you are going to find even a better game. But I don't see the games being anything different than the first game as far as gap and score and everything. There are just too many similarities between the two teams. I think you are going to see a lot of very close games and a lot of overtime.

Q. You talked about leadership on the teams. Talk about Nieuwendyk and his leadership on this team (inaudible) --

KEN HITCHCOCK: I think in the Playoffs when the decision to use Modano in a checking role was identified that for us to create gap in a series; especially in the Edmonton series, and in particular the Colorado series, we had to have someone step forward and Nieuwendyk has stepped forward and then along with that he has brought Langenbrunner, Hogue and Reid, that's really, really helped us. It's really helped us because the gamble we took was that Modano's line would break even and that the gap would be created by Nieuwendyk's line and so far in the two series that we needed it, really strongly he has done a good job.

Q. How does the change -- (inaudible) -- different line --

KEN HITCHCOCK: It is a little different against Buffalo because Buffalo really -- their definitive line's like ours; it's a checking line. Peca is a big part of their game but their production is coming from Brown's line, so you have to focus, it is like us a little bit, you know, our marquis player is Modano but he is a two-way player but a lot of the production is coming from Nieuwendyk so it is kind of which way do you focus. I feel like Nieuwendyk's line is going to have to have a big impact in this series because Buffalo really has three lines and ten or eleven players that can score. They are not like some of the other teams where there was definitive checkers, even their checkers here and their role players like Barnes and Primeau, they can all score.

Q. (inaudible)

KEN HITCHCOCK: I don't think that we are afraid to play him against anybody, to be honest with you. But I think that we have also recognized that Brown's line has a big impact in the game and we have got to neutralize that.

Q. Lindy made a big deal about Skrudland's so-called head butt. I wondered what your reaction was if you talked to Brian how that --

KEN HITCHCOCK: You know what, I have never seen it. I haven't seen it yet. I am probably not going to look for it because somebody said it wasn't anything. But it was funny because having Skrudland explain it and then having Skrudland talk like Varada talks explaining it to Skrudland, it was pretty humorous, I have got to tell you. I don't know what happened but the explanation was worth the price to admission this morning, I will tell you. It was -- Scruy (phonetic) talks in screwy language anyway and getting him to talk like Varada was even more comical.

Q. Do you consider those types of things interesting or do you feel the want to talk back sometimes?

KEN HITCHCOCK: You mean like in -- on the rhetoric?

Q. Yes.

KEN HITCHCOCK: Just on Dixon Ward.

Q. Or him calling Belfour, a goalie who will take a dive --

KEN HITCHCOCK: I think Lindy has learned well from Roger and Roger is the best in the League. Scotty is right there and Lindy has learned that. It is kind of -- it is just throw out and see what sticks. It makes good reading and to me, as coaches and as players, we get beyond that and I think that, you know, Lindy does it and he is hopeful that the referees are we will educated and can read and things like that and they can move ahead. I think he is looking in those terms that it can have an influence. I think it is all there to change the focus away from people pointing at his own players and it is the same thing as they throw at Peca: Peca this and Peca that. All that stuff. He is a real good player, but I think anybody that watches the tape knows the impact the Brown's line has. I think it is all done as diversionary tactics. We do some of the same things -- I might be dying inside, you are not going to know that though. Some of the comedy and some of the looseness that is done as diversionary tactics. Lindy is a fierce competitor and a good challenge for me as a coach and his team is a good challenge for us as a team.

Q. Did you see Hasek (inaudible) when Carbonneau came by --

KEN HITCHCOCK: I am not looking at Hasek. I just want the puck to go by him. That is all I am looking at.

Q. Will he take a dive?

KEN HITCHCOCK: Hasek? Yeah, same as Eddie. I mean, goalies -- a lot of them had careers as broadcasters, but there is a lot of them that can go directly to Hollywood too, ours included. Thanks.

End of FastScripts...

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