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May 16, 2004
TAMPA, FLORIDA: Practice Day
Q. Any injuries updates?
KEN HITCHCOCK: Both guys felt much better today. They are expected to practice full-out with us tomorrow. And unless there's something in the next 48 hours that happens which we don't expect, both will be ready to play Tuesday.
Q. Do you bring Seidenberg now?
KEN HITCHCOCK: Actually we're bringing a lot of players now. We've taken Nittymaki, Seidenberg, Slaney, Jones, Kane, Carter, and Kirby Law.
Q. But who do you play if you have to play somebody?
KEN HITCHCOCK: Dennis will play for sure if we have to play somebody, but we still anticipate that Joni is going to be ready to go. He felt a lot better today. He felt good enough to go.
Q. He didn't look good enough to go on the ice yesterday?
KEN HITCHCOCK: That was yesterday; today is a new day.
Q. Is this a reward for some of these guys just to be around at this time of year?
KEN HITCHCOCK: I found that it starts off as a reward to hang out, and then they end up playing. (Laughter) I'm not sure if that's a reward or not, but we've got some guys who really played well down there. Carter really played well, big guy that can really skate. Dennis really played well in the last half of the series, you know, so we have got some people who can step up, and Dennis looks like he's really back to form right now and probably could step in and help us.
I think the decision for us in talking to people is whether we are willing to risk putting Dennis back in there and moving Kapi back up front so that's still the decision that we're debating right now. With the way Dennis played the last four games in the series, he's a player that could probably come in and really help us right now. So we are not really -- we haven't made a decision in that area yet.
Q. What's a possible drawback of doing that?
KEN HITCHCOCK: Well, you've got two young guys playing on defense then, and Kapi is playing 20 minutes a night, so those guys would have to split more time but we haven't made up our decision.
Q. There is no scenario where Carter is eligible though, is there?
KEN HITCHCOCK: I don't know why not.
Q. He's never been signed, a tryout --
KEN HITCHCOCK: He can try out for us, can't he? I don't know. I'm just saying, he played well down there, he's going to stay with us for the duration of the playoffs.
Q. How about the defensemen who have been in there every night who have not suffered injuries, can you talk about stability from the guys who don't get the headlines?
KEN HITCHCOCK: Maybe they don't get the headlines in the media but they get the headlines on our team, you're talking Timander, Malakhov, Johnson, Malakhov and Markov have played great. As a player, Timander has been a very underrated player, and it seems the harder the game, the better Mattias plays.
Like I said before, you get in the playoffs, and you always over work four. It's much easier to play a shorter bench at this time of year because of the time-outs. Time-outs are much longer, it's much easier to play a shorter bench, you know, so there's things we can do during playoffs that we are not able to do during the regular season from defenseman standpoint and from a forward standpoint.
The time-outs are longer than any time-out a coach can call so there's lots of breaks in the action that there normally wasn't in regular season.
Q. J.R.'S injury is something that's been lingering or did something actually happen?
KEN HITCHCOCK: No, it came from the hit yesterday, but he felt a lot better today.
Q. You have two upper-body concussions, however you want to describe it, a guy out with a broken hand, ton of penalties against your team, and the perception, at least, that you guys have been the more physical team in the series; is that perception accurate?
KEN HITCHCOCK: Well, the penalties that we got yesterday, we're like any other team, we didn't like some of the calls, but I'm sure there's penalties that they get that they didn't like.
I don't think it's an advantage. I thought the momentum they gained in the game yesterday, we played an unbelievable first period until the four-minute minor, and that allowed them to put their skill players on the ice for an extended period of time and gave them momentum.
And I thought it was the same in the third period. We had a great start to the third period and we got a couple of penalties and that gave the momentum again. I think when you're playing against a team like Tampa, any time you can keep those top guys playing five-on-five hockey, that gives you a fighting chance. But when you're killing penalties, we had seven -- they had seven power plays yesterday. In our opinion, that's too many. We're going to have to be a little bit better.
Q. When you say too many -- okay, you're saying too many as a team, not that you got a bad call?
KEN HITCHCOCK: No. I'm saying it's too many. We didn't like some of the calls that we got, but that's part of the game, seven power plays is far too many.
Q. Not to belabor the point but are you suffering from a perception that maybe this is not the reality, in other words you're the physical team, but one of your guys goes out because a guy leaves his feet and pops an elbow.
KEN HITCHCOCK: I don't think the penalties we got yesterday were overly aggressive penalties. I think they were emotional penalties, a couple of them were emotional penalties and those are things we want to try to control a little bit. I think we're capable of doing that.
You know what, it's also a lot easier to control that on the road than it is at home. You're so revved up at home, it's more difficult.
Q. I noticed today that DeJardins, besides skating was shooting the puck, is there any chance you go to the finals he's going to come back?
KEN HITCHCOCK: I have no comment on him right now.
Q. That's a comment. When will you have a comment on him?
KEN HITCHCOCK: Next week.
Q. Are you worried at all about how heavily you're leaning on Primeau and how much he can give every game; do you really think he's got it in him to just keep going at this level?
KEN HITCHCOCK: Yeah, I think so. I think with the rest in between games, I think he can keep playing at this level. I don't see any reason. They are leaning on other guys, too. I don't see it.
I sit and wonder on a couple of their players, how they keep going. But this is such a focused time for everybody, I think you expect that at this time of year when you get this close to four teams left.
Q. He keeps saying he has never felt this good in the playoffs; I wonder how much of that has to do with the fact he got to sit out?
KEN HITCHCOCK: I think it's huge. I think it's the reason a guy like Roenick is skating so well. It's huge. You don't like to see a player get that type of extended rest, but they do. I think it's huge.
Q. I know you said you had no comment on this, but when he broke it the first time, it was an eight- to ten-week injury, how could he possibly --
KEN HITCHCOCK: I'm not commenting until next week. Until I can give you something definite I'm not commenting.
Q. But that's a definite "not no."
KEN HITCHCOCK: Well, you guys write whatever you want to write but I'm not commenting until I'm 100% on what's going on. (Laughter).
Q. He was working today like a guy -- (laughter) -- who intends to play?
KEN HITCHCOCK: Can we talk about the horse race? (Laughter).
Q. Was he on the horse?
KEN HITCHCOCK: We'll see.
Q. You need something else for jam-ups?
KEN HITCHCOCK: Yeah, to finish the chances that they get, if they get that opportunity. They have been getting a lot of chances, but it would be nice for them and nice for us if they could finish them. They have been really getting some quality chances. They are the one line that gets all the chances off the rush, and boy, if they could finish a couple of them that would really help.
Q. How about the power play, you said you were going to tinker with it?
KEN HITCHCOCK: We had it yesterday. We had it dead to rights four times and missed on the two plays around the net. We had it right there.
Q. Outside of the three goals yesterday, was there something intangible that was better about Game 4 than Game 3?
KEN HITCHCOCK: Yeah, well, I think we -- you know, five-on-five we played a terrific hockey game. We played a heck of a hockey game. If we can continue to play at that pace, and with that type of energy, that's a great thing for us. Like I said, the momentum of the game was off the power play. If we can continue to play the way we did in the first two periods, we think we've got a chance to win.
Q. Are you seeing signs that the physical nature of the series is having a wearing effect on Tampa, the later it gets?
KEN HITCHCOCK: Not really. They are a really -- they are a big team. They are a very big team. Their defense is huge. I don't think you're going to -- I think all it is, when you talk about physical play at this time, it doesn't wear out people. But when you're playing physical, you're skating, and the more physical we play, the better we skate and when we skate, good things happen. I thought we tried to play around it a little bit at the start of Game 3, tried to make too many plays in front of it rather than just go after it and we went really after it in Game 4 and had them in at times. It's wearing when people are coming at you all the time, you're always on you're heels you're always flat-footed and we did a good job of that.
Q. That kind of game hurts them?
KEN HITCHCOCK: They have a lot of skill so they can play a lot of track-me type of game. That's not best suited for us.
Q. Do you think you're insulated from another Game 3 start because of what happened?
KEN HITCHCOCK: Well, you can't tell, it's such a huge pull on momentum. I know how they are going to want to start and there's such a tug-of-war, it doesn't take much to get the other team on it's heels.
I find winning on the road when it's best-of-three is about first-period survival. You're not going to outplay the home team in the first period. It really is about survival. And the longer you can make a game go when you're on the road, and late in the series, tied or better, the better it is for you. But if you can keep the game close, you're not going to win games early on the road; you're going to have to win them race.
Q. Are you tired emotionally from just the grind, is it wearing on you?
KEN HITCHCOCK: No, the only thing that wears me out is talking to you guys. (Laughter).
Q. It's wearing us out, too.
KEN HITCHCOCK: No, I love it. (Laughter) I find that this is hardest -- this is easiest for the coaches and the players at this time of year. It's very, very difficult for friends and family. They have an emotional risk here bigger or as big as ours, but they have no control over anything, and it's very -- it's very concerning when you see family members or you see close friends who are just, you know, worked up and concerned and worried and emotional wrecks at times because they have got the same thing at stake that we do but they have got -- they have no control of anything. That's a hard way to watch sports.
Q. Tortorella says you never tire of talking.
KEN HITCHCOCK: Is he back up again? (Laughter).
Q. The Phantoms that you are recognizing and some of them you're going to play but you're recognizing their contributions, I guess the flipside of being in a good organization, obviously the benefits, but the back side is maybe it's harder to get up to the big club; is that something you have to keep these guys buoyed about or do they understand the situation?
KEN HITCHCOCK: The problem is, when you have -- when you call up players early in playoffs, because, say a team isn't out, it becomes really a long time. But they just got knocked out three days ago so this is going to be a short time for them. So they are excited to keep skating and hanging around, things like that.
But, you know, I find that you end up using these guys. They are a little fresher at times and somebody can have a bite -- like Kirby Law was a good player for us, Boyd Kane was a good player. These are elements you can't go on past performances. It's kind of -- playoffs are "What have you done for me lately?" That's why you see some really strange heroes at the end of playoffs and at the end of series and the finals, because they are players that for a short period of time can get it done in a good way. So we're not opposed to using any of these guys because they are up with us because when they did come up they performed very well.
You know, if we feel like there's an existing player that isn't getting it done, we won't hesitate to make a change.
Q. Is it like a baseball manager who has to have a quick hook with a pitcher?
KEN HITCHCOCK: You have to be really short. Even the way you play your lines, you might have a 60-point guy or 70-point guy that is not getting it done. You can't afford to wait. If you wait you're going to be pushed out. You have to deal on the reality of what happened in the game before and that's why a lot of coaches make changes, because you can't wait and hope a guy is going to come around because it's too late. You've got to make changes with your head. If you make them with your heart at this time of year, it usually doesn't work. You have to make them with your head and I know it's hard on the players and I know it's difficult because they feel like they have earned the right to keep going, but if they are not going, you can't -- this isn't the time to have long-term meetings and things like that. You've got to deal with it.
Q. Are your guys as loose as you are because you've been cracking jokes the entire post-season; are they like that or are they real tight?
KEN HITCHCOCK: Well, I don't know, tight; I mean they are focused, but I don't know that they are tight. Tight is when you can't play, you're too nervous to play. Tight is caused by stressful situations. It's not pressure. If you don't enjoy the pressure right now, you're in the wrong business.
This is just -- I told you yesterday, this is the greatest time of year. There's a central focus. I went yesterday and picked up my laundry and paid for it and forgot it twice. (Laughter) The ladies from the dry cleaners was screaming at me because I left it on the hooks twice.
You know, you do things like that. You forget about where you're supposed to turn to go home. You forget about a lot of things because you're so focused in one area and you kind of overthink this time of year, but it's a fun time. But it's very hard on your family.
Q. You came here and you moved around the area when you first took the job, I would guess you got fan input on what they thought of Keith Primeau, not necessarily the team, but Keith Primeau. Can you share that with us and how it might be a little different right now if the same people walked up to you?
KEN HITCHCOCK: Well they didn't really like the whole situation that went down because Billy was part of the family here, and they didn't like the way it went down.
But, you know, you also find out with the Flyer fans that if you play with a lot of courage and you play hard, they forgive a lot of things about people. Keith knew that, and he went out and did it. A lot of players did it because there was an angry fan base here last year, they were still very supportive but they weren't really happy with us, with the way it transpired and the players had to go and earn it back and they have done it. They have earned it back. And for me, I'm happy for them because probably the thing could have been handled a little bit differently but damage was there and it was done and you had to deal with it.
Q. Did you ever advise them -- they never lashed back, particularly he never lashed back at the fans which we have seen when fans get on a guy?
KEN HITCHCOCK: No, I think you know that when you live here; that they might be hard on you, but they are so supportive, it's unbelievable. They are demanding. But, you know what that's a good thing because you can't hide in this city. If you're an athlete in a major sport, you can't hide in this city. I think it makes players perform at a much higher level. I came from an atmosphere where you could hide, and I don't think it's -- I don't think it's near as responsible when you're in that atmosphere. I think you really have to create that responsibility if you're not in a city like Philadelphia.
When you're here, you can't hide. You can't hide on the ice, you can't hide in the community, you have to show up and play and you have to be accountable. I think it brings up the best, or sometimes the worst in players, but in most cases, for me it brings up the best.
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