May 11, 2001
DENVER, COLORADO: Practice Day
MODERATOR: Questions, please.
Q. Joel, could you talk about Peter Forsberg's absence in this series?
COACH QUENNEVILLE: Well, it's an unfortunate kind of a strange injury knowing that it happened after a game. We all know how great a player Peter is, and his importance to the team. But I think when you look at the matchups, it may change a little bit of the matchups as far as how we go about it. But certainly I think it can be a rallying point for their team. They played without some key players over the last couple years, and they've gone on and had some success. I don't think we can underestimate what's going to happen on their end of it. I think we got to go about it like nothing -- it's not going to be any easier. The same approach we've had in the first two series: we have to overcome everything. "Let's go ahead and don't think it's a layup because Peter is not playing."
Q. Eight days off without a game. I'm sure that's what you would prefer to have. How do you guard against coming out in a stale fashion or worried about the layoff?
COACH QUENNEVILLE: It could be a concern. I know that we really finished that Dallas series on a high note. We played the way we wanted to be at as far as getting to that next level. We thought we achieved it. Having a couple days off, now practicing for five or six days, the guys are chomping at the bit, they want to play games. That is a concern how we begin the game tomorrow. But I think that excitement that we finished with, we'll recapture it, hopefully quicker than later.
Q. From the owners on down to a couple of young coaches, big players on the blue line, youth up front, are these teams very similar? They seem to be.
COACH QUENNEVILLE: You know, when you look at maybe the top-end blue liners, both teams are blessed with some of the greats in the game. Patrick has proven that he's a championship goaltender. Roman has come a long way this year. Really answered how he can handle the playoff pressure and what comes with it. We have up front, you know, high-profile players, Turgeon. That line has been real effective, Tkachuk. I mean, they have Sakic's line and Forsberg, with Drury, who is a real dangerous player that we have to be concerned with also. There's a lot of high-end talent, but at the same time, I think both teams play a very strong team game, and everybody plays a part in it. I don't think nobody's relying on just one group to carry them through it.
Q. Joel, with the off-season acquisitions and the trade deadline acquisitions, is this a physically and mentally tougher team than it's been in past years?
COACH QUENNEVILLE: I think we've improved our overall team depth. I think we've added the elements; I think we're a better year. Last year getting beat in the first round, San Jose, I thought we addressed it that brought in a couple of guys that brought in that grit and character, Dallas Drake and Sean Hill, the additions with John Mellanby, Keith Tkachuk. I felt we really added that presence, which you need come playoff time. Getting deep near playoffs, these guys' importance plays itself out, knowing in the long playoff rounds they're tough to contain and no fun to play against. But we feel that it gives our team a different look than we've had over the last little while. But we feel we're also deeper in other areas and not just in that department.
Q. What is it like for you to come back and play against this franchise?
COACH QUENNEVILLE: Well, it's always great to get back to Denver (smiling). There's great memories, a great place to play as a player and as a coach. We had some success here. But we're approaching this that it's all business. We know we're facing a great challenge here. This team's familiar with where they're at at this stage of the game in playoffs. We're happy to be here, but we're not satisfied with where we're at. We've had a couple guys here that were here when we won the championship, Scotty Young and Goose. But that's all in the past. I think we're excited about the situation that's at hand right now. I think that will be tough to measure that once we begin.
Q. Did you enjoy that part of it when you were playing the All-Stars?
COACH QUENNEVILLE: That was fun, a great weekend. Kitchen was out there having a great time in the old-timers game. Brought back good memories here. Had fun coaching the All Stars, Mario Lemieux, great players. Always good to get back here. But here we are again. The importance of what we have right now is real, and it's a great opportunity. It's a fun situation to be here and be in.
Q. How important was that experience of going to the finals as an assistant coach that translated to you in your head coaching, and also being here at this level now?
COACH QUENNEVILLE: Well, it had to help. Being around that long, you find out the mentality of how tough it is, how long it is, handling the momentum swings of knowing that you're going to be down, you're going to be against it sometimes, how you bounce back from it. We had some key guys that helped us through that. I think that same process is in place now as far as, "Don't get too far ahead of yourselves, because it's a long road. You've got to deal with this round." I think that you can't look past Colorado now. But it certainly did help, the approach as coaches, knowing the mentality of the players, the psyche that they need, they're going to have throughout this.
Q. Was it difficult to leave them, they were in the middle of a trophy season, maybe going for the big one?
COACH QUENNEVILLE: I have to admit, at the time it was a real tough decision. I was fortunate that I had the opportunity there. I still in my heart was thinking had another chance to win another championship here. In hindsight, I'm glad I made the decision. Things really worked out in St. Louis. I couldn't have been happier, more fortunate, with the opportunity that presented itself.
Q. For either of you guys, do you see a lot of similarities between your team and the Avalanche team up and down the lineup?
PIERRE TURGEON: Well, yeah. You know, obviously you look at defensemen, it started right there. You know, there's the way of Chris and Al, Blake, you know, Adam Foote, Bourque. As far as goaltending, probably the same situation. They've been playing very well both of them. You see a lot of the same thing.
Q. Does it change the game plan at all now that Forsberg is out? Do you almost have to be more careful guarding against them rallying around that?
PIERRE TURGEON: Well --.
CHRIS PRONGER: Do you want me to answer that? You point and we'll figure it out (laughter).
CHRIS PRONGER: Okay, I get to answer one (laughter). No, I think our game plan definitely doesn't change. If anything, we have to play harder because, as you said, they can use it as a rallying point. Other players step up and play a bigger role. You know, you never know what's going to happen in playoff hockey. It's funny how way things work out. You know, we've got to realize that obviously they're going to be a little bit different team. That might make them a little bit stronger team. You know, play a bit more of a team game as opposed to letting their individual skilled players kind of dominate the game. We've got to go out and shut them down and play physical whether he's in the lineup or not. We have to play the same way each and every night.
Q. Chris, how is the addition of Keith and the others that you guys have acquired, how has that changed this team?
CHRIS PRONGER: I think it gave us a lot more balanced attack. When you go up and down our lineup, from line one to line four, we have a banger, a scorer and a play-maker on every line. That type of depth, you know, is tough to compete against. You know, you don't really know what defensive pairing or line combinations to throw out there against them. It's nice to have a guy going to the net on every line, you know he's always going to be there. You got somebody who is going to be throwing the puck at the net. You've got a guy to make plays. It doesn't necessarily mean those are the exact roles, but, you know, somewhat defined.
Q. With such a long time off, battling the altitude, will it take a while -- with the importance of the game, can you get into it?
CHRIS PRONGER: I think having a chance to get back in to play another game. I'm sure you'll get exhausted just from breathing (laughter). But, no, I'm sure it will affect us a little bit at the start, but that's why you take shorter shifts and try to counteract that.
Q. I asked this question to a couple other guys.
CHRIS PRONGER: I can't answer it then (smiling).
Q. Chris, is this team mentally, physically, tougher, stronger than it has been in the past?
CHRIS PRONGER: Yeah, I think so. With the mindset and what kind of has transpired with this team the last couple years, the different adversities we've gone through, not only in the past years but also this year with the injuries we've had, putting a little bit more pressure on other players to play a lot more minutes, play different roles within the team, that maybe they're not used to. You know, I think it helped our team grow a lot more. Obviously, as you said, adding the players, the Scott Mellanbys, Keith Tkachuks, Corey Stillmans, Dallas Drakes, Sean Hills, guys like, that guys are really paying dividends now. Whether it be guys standing in front of the net or scoring big goals or just making big hits, you know, we're kind of reaping the rewards of picking up those guys right now.
Q. Do you see playing against the Sakic line a lot? Can you talk about him as a player?
CHRIS PRONGER: Well, I think the biggest thing when you think of Joe Sakic is his speed and quick release. You've got to try to stay tight to him, kind of negate his time and space, and really try to force him to pass the puck off and get rid of it. A dangerous Joe Sakic is a guy who's got the puck. I've seen him beat goalies outside the blue line. You really have to pay attention to him out there, but again play physical and make sure he knows he's in a game.
Q. How have you changed this team?
KEITH TKACHUK: I haven't changed this team at all. I mean, you know, it's nice, they needed different ingredients. You know, myself, Mellanby, Drake, you know, Stillman, different faces and different personalities, a little grittiness I think is what this team needed.
Q. Can you talk about playing against Adam Foote, what it's like, what you maybe have to do to get around a guy like that?
KEITH TKACHUK: It's a warrior. He's the type of guy you hate to face. He's such a strong guy out there, battling, he gives it everything every shift, doesn't let up for a second. He plays physical. I've been battling with him for a lot of years. You know, you respect a guy like that. Every time you go out and face a guy like, that it doesn't get any easier. First series you get Rathje, Hatcher and Matvichuk, then you get this series Blake, Foote and Bourque. It's no fun.
Q. Do you enjoy that challenge?
KEITH TKACHUK: Not as much as my body takes a beating. It keeps you on your toes every shift. You want to give out some punishment because you know you're going to get it.
Q. It wasn't like things immediately began turning around at the trade deadline. Lots of injuries. What are you guys doing better now as a team than you were then?
KEITH TKACHUK: Well, I think we've dealt with a lot of adversity. When you're without 44, it's tough, it really is. He's your best player. He's the best player in the league. I think what with all the trades, with Al out, too, Pavol, everybody's getting used to each other. It's tough. You can't come right in and change things. It's a feeling-out process. I'm glad we got that over with at that time, and now we've kind of hit, you know, a good stride. Everybody's back, everybody's getting used to each other, everybody's healthy. That makes a big difference.
Q. Is there anything you can take from the series, the Phoenix-Colorado series as far as learning experience?
KEITH TKACHUK: Well, I think we were overmatched last year. We don't have the depth we have here in St. Louis. You look at our series with San Jose and Dallas, every line has been contributing each game. Phoenix, you know, you hate to say it, but we didn't have that. It was a 1-2 punch. If those guys don't score, you may win it. Here, stole Mi gets a big goal, Mellanby, Demitra, Reasoner, Young and Drake, there's so much depth on this team. That's why I think it's going to be a great series to watch against Colorado, because they have the same amount of depth, a great skating team. It makes a big difference than playing in Phoenix, I'll tell you that.
Q. Plan change now that Forsberg is out of the lineup?
KEITH TKACHUK: No. We still want to go after him as hard as we can. They're an unbelievable hockey team. They have a bunch of All-Stars over there. We're going to go at them as hard as we can. The difference is we like to crash and bang on this team. That's why we're here at this point right now.
Q. How much fun is this for you?
KEITH TKACHUK: It's unbelievable. I mean, we're not done yet, but it's great to be in this position where, you know, at this time every year usually I'm playing golf (smiling). I'm glad to be playing hockey. It's the best time of the year. It's a lot of fun. Can't keep track of the date right now, which is good.
Q. Being off for a week, that's tough. You have the altitude as another deal. Will it take a while to get your legs going tomorrow?
KEITH TKACHUK: Well, it shouldn't because we've been through some tough practices, you know, since Sunday. It's tough when you fly here and play in the altitude, yeah, it's tough. But as long as we take short shifts, I'm glad we practiced, got the opportunity to get, you know, used to it today. But it takes time to get used to it. Hopefully we can come out and take short shifts, not get caught out there too long, because that's when you get in trouble.
Q. When we talk about these lineups, All-Stars, style of play, there are a lot of similarities between these two teams?
KEITH TKACHUK: Absolutely. I mean, you know, I think you look at our No. 1 center and their No. 1 center, Sakic is probably the most valuable player in the league this year. He deserves to be the MVP. Then you have Turgeon, have you Scotty Young on the right side, he's got great hands. Hejduk has great hands. Chris Drury has been their best player in the playoffs. We got some guys like Demitra who has a great set of hands, a big part of our success. Yeah, do you have some similarities. You have Bourque, you know, MacInnis, you know, Blake and Foote against Pronger. I think it's great for hockey that we are going to meet in the series.
Q. You played nine days ago. They played three days ago. What sort of effect will that have?
KEITH TKACHUK: I'm sure they'll be sharp. We might be a little bit rusty. We'll be well-rested. They went through a difficult series playing against a difficult team in LA, hopefully wore the guys down like Bourque and Sakic. Hopefully we can take advantage.
Q. You think it evens itself out?
KEITH TKACHUK: Absolutely. We wanted to get some rest. Has it been nine days?
KEITH TKACHUK: That's a long time to be rested. I guess that's the reward you get for sweeping Dallas (smiling).
Q. Can you talk about how the grit helps the finesse?
KEITH TKACHUK: It's big. I think everybody on our team, you know, Turgeon is a finesse guy like I told you before, but he had to change a bit of his game to become grittier. I think Dallas has helped by playing greatly. Those are the good combinations. We have a banger and crasher on every line, a play-maker and a scorer. That is why I think our team is having so much success right now, the balanced attack we have a lot of depth. We have all four lines that play well together and, like I said, have a different type of ingredient on every line.
Q. Do you think it's important for you or Pierre or to carry the team a bit?
KEITH TKACHUK: I think we have a bunch of leaders on this team. We can't count on one or two guys to carry the load. It has to be everybody. This game is too difficult. Colorado has too much talent for just one guy to try to carry the load. The big players have to lead, but everybody has to follow and contribute.
Q. You just mentioned Chris Drury, that he played best for them in the playoffs. What about his game? Little guy, but seems to have some scrap to him.
KEITH TKACHUK: He's an unbelievable player. He stepped into a great situation. I think you can credit Pierre Lacroix, not only about Chris, but a lot of guys they drafted. Chris is a feisty little guy. He works hard. He's a Boston University product, you know (smiling). He has great hands, you have to watch him. He's been scoring some big goals ever since he's been in the NHL, in the playoffs. He's done something right. Now he's probably going to be asked to do a lot more now that Forsberg is out.
Q. Did you watch a lot of the LA series with the Avalanche?
KEITH TKACHUK: I did watch the last game. You know, I didn't really watch any before that. I know it was a physical series from what I've heard. It's going to be tough. I mean, hopefully they're worn down quite a bit, hopefully we can jump on them even more (smiling). My ride is here, so I have to go. Is that it?
Q. Thank you.
KEITH TKACHUK: Sorry for keeping you guys.
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