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June 11, 2006
EDMONTON, ALBERTA: Practice Day
Q. Can you talk about just the way it didn't seem like you guys were looking over your shoulder, worried about something going wrong behind you last night?
ETHAN MOREAU: I don't think that was the case. I think we felt comfortable throughout the game. We were doing a lot of things well, a lot of things better than we did in Game 1 and 2. And much like we have throughout the playoffs, we had a sense that if we continue to play well we were going to capitalize on one of our chances, and we did again.
Q. Can you talk about Markkanen, how he's handled this moment, his demeanor, what that's meant to you guys?
ETHAN MOREAU: We're obviously extremely happy for him personally. It's been a trying year for both of our goalies, Conks and Markkanen. They are great people, great teammates, and it's been quite a ride for those guys. It's pretty good lesson in sports; you never know what is going to happen.
But he played great last night. He's a good goalie. He's been in the league for a while. He's a mature guy, older guy. We have a lot of confidence in him. We're in a good position now. He has to get hot for three games and that's it.
Q. You went through the 0-2 thing with San Jose and we know what happened there. How much of a lift is it, I mean, obviously 1-2 is a lot different than 0-3, but just when you wake up this morning and you are back in a hockey series?
ETHAN MOREAU: It's exciting. We have created another opportunity for ourselves. It's much like the San Jose series. In that series Tico gets a big goal, sends it into overtime.
But yeah, you wake up and you feel great. We have a really good chance tomorrow night to even the series.
RAFFI TORRES: Yeah, definitely feeling pretty confident out there, especially this morning I know I woke up I was like -- I was hoping it was kind of game day today, but it is definitely exciting out there. Getting ready to go.
Q. Talk about the importance that it was to get your line out against Brind'Amour's line and also the physical toll that you guys did on Brind'Amour.
RAFFI TORRES: They are a dangerous line. Like that one shift that they scored, we let up just a little bit and Brind'Amour, as good as he is, just capitalized on our mistakes. So I thought it was good test for us. I enjoyed playing against them. It's kind of a test for myself playing against top line like that, but I thought we did pretty good job, and obviously looking forward to it again tomorrow.
Q. Ethan, you have known Ryan Smyth a long time. Have you seen evolution in him in terms of what he's like in the dressing room? As a player sort of as a follow-up, are you surprised what sort of -- his profile in the community and maybe even across the country in terms of sort of the face of this team and the prototypical Canadian hockey guy?
ETHAN MOREAU: Yeah, the cool thing about our team right now is that we have grown up together, guys like Ryan, Gator, Georges, Stevie. When I got here I was a young player, I think I was 23, Smitty was the same age, so we have all matured and he's definitely the face of our organization right now.
He had quite a career here. Outside of the group of guys we had here in the '80s, he's probably the most recognize anybody player and probably the best player outside of that group. So he gets everything he deserves. He works extremely hard, his practice habits, he's just -- he's quite an example for the young guys that come into our organization.
Q. Ales Hemsky looks like a guy who is real close to -- he's a good player now, but he's probably going to be better. How good will he be and what is it like playing with him? How good is he?
ETHAN MOREAU: He's one of those guys on the bench that you get caught watching him and we look at each other every game and just shake our heads. I mean, he's -- it's unbelievable the skill level he has and there's no reason why he shouldn't be probably top five players in the league with a little bit, you know, a little bit of hard work in the off-season. He's an incredible player and he's a guy that we have on our team that can win games for us and he has done that. He scored some huge goals, he plays hurt, he's huge for us. It's nice to have a guy like that on your side that you know if you need that big goal or if you need a big play to be made, he can do it and that's something that we have lacked here in the past.
Q. You have killed penalties for a long time, what is Carolina doing to your power play and other than putting yourself on it, how would you fix your power play?
ETHAN MOREAU: Well, (laughs), they are smart. They know why our power play has success. They are obviously keying on Prongs, they are trying to take away the top. They are pressuring hard. When we go into a diamond formation they are pressuring extremely hard and they are good. They have good active sticks, they block shots, they are much like we are and they work hard. A lot of special teams comes down to that, how badly you want the puck and your willingness to compete for the puck and I think, you know, -- everybody knows how the power play works, sometimes you go through cycles where you are hot and sometimes when things aren't going as well as they should be. But we definitely have the personnel on both units, and we have that quiet confidence as well regarding our power play. We know that eventually they are going to score goals for us and it will probably make the difference in the series.
Q. Following up on Ryan Smyth, obviously that goal last night was so typical of the way he plays and he really keeps it simple, drives to the net. Why is he so successful at doing that? Other guys do it but nobody does it quite like him.
ETHAN MOREAU: I don't know. It's a mystery. We try to figure out how he scores so much all the time. He has got a horrible shot, terrible stick, I don't know. He knows how to play the game. He's a hockey player. You watch him in practice and sometimes he winds up takes a slap shot and my five-year-old can shoot better. Sorry Smitty (laughs).
He scores huge goals. What a typical Ryan Smyth goal last night; goes off his chest and he has -- the puck just finds him around the net, and you know, that coupled with he works extremely hard. He just competes every shift and he gets everything out of his ability, that's for sure.
Q. Coaches don't get a lot of time to make adjustments during the playoffs, especially in the Finals. Talk about Mac T's preparation and adjustment he's made for you guys going into Game 3 especially on the PK.
ETHAN MOREAU: It's been a huge part of our success is our game plan. Been solid throughout the playoffs. That's why we beat Detroit. That's why we had success against San Jose when we came back home. We have made adjustments throughout the playoffs, that have helped. You can see it last night. We had a lot more structure in our game, particularly on our shorthanded situations, a little bit more selective in our pressure and it worked. At this time of the year you need that. You need somebody to tell you exactly what to do and we'll do it. Coaching and game plans are huge right now.
Q. Follow-up on the Brind'Amour question, how much was there a concerted effort, if he's going to play 25 minutes tonight, to punish him physically and how much do you take pride in that role?
RAFFI TORRES: For me it's part of my game, if I am not out there moving my feet and getting involved, getting out of the guys' faces then I won't be doing my job and playing my game. Got to make sure I do that every night. With him any time you get a chance to get a lick on him, like yesterday we got a couple of licks on him, but like I said, that shift, you know, one shift we take off and he puts the puck in the net. He's hot right now, probably the hottest player in the playoffs right now, so you got just got to make sure we focus on him and try and keep him from getting more confident out there.
Q. Ethan, it was 1-0 when your shorthanded goal was disallowed. How hard did you have to work to not be rattled by that?
ETHAN MOREAU: We're still up 1-0. Fortunately we didn't need the goal. It would have been if we lose that game it would be quite a bit of controversy. It was frustrating but that happens. One of the things that we really talk about before the game and during the periods is that we can handle anything and anything that's thrown our way, any adversity, that we'll maintain our focus and keep playing no matter what happens and that was the case last night. It's unfortunate, you get mad for a couple of seconds, then you just let it go and you refocus and start playing the game.
Q. Obviously last night was a big win but still feeling in the dressing room you have to do a lot of things better for the next game, the power play still needs working on, still need some more goal scoring, is it a feeling that it was a big boost but there's a ways to go?
ETHAN MOREAU: That's encouraging, we haven't played our best yet, we fell that if we raise our level, just a little bit, we'll be able to take over the series, and it's one thing if you are playing flawless hockey and playing your best and still not getting results, which is definitely not the case. We have a better game in us and I think that will be enough.
Q. Raffi, would you like to take your turn at carving up Ryan?
RAFFI TORRES: He said it about as good as you can. It's just a dirty, dirty goal last night to get the winner, but that's the way it is. I am a young guy coming in here and I look at him in practice deflecting shots, just working on every part of his game. It rubs off on me, that's for sure when I am out there working on things for myself.
But like chop said here, he's not the best skater out there, he's not the best shot but he knows how to get it done and that's why he's pretty much the heart and soul of our team, that's for sure?
Q. Chris, they seem to adopt an "us against the world" philosophy last night; they were pissed off at the game-winning goal. How do you expect that's going to translate emotionally to Game 4?
CHRIS PRONGER: Doesn't really surprise me. They are the ones that are up and everybody has us counted out. We seem to be better when our backs are against the wall and nobody gives us any respect. Certainly I am sure still the case we have got to go out and prove everybody wrong and go out and continue to play the way we have throughout the course of the playoffs and make sure that we're doing all the little things that we did right yesterday.
Q. What does it mean to any of the current Oilers to see the old guard, Mark Messier, walking around? Bill Ranford, made note of him yesterday, does that mean anything to you players, that connection to the old guard?
ETHAN MOREAU: I think it's one of the special things about playing here, there is tradition here and we're very aware of it. We would like nothing better to have our names put aside the guys that played here in the '80s. It's a pretty cool feeling to know that they are interested and they are in the building. It definitely makes it more special.
Q. Chris, I asked Ethan this earlier, can you talk about the difference in your mind between 1-2 and 0-3 having gone through it against San Jose? Just what it means to the hockey club?
CHRIS PRONGER: I think we realized yesterday that there's not a bigger game in the series than that one yesterday, and neither being down two games to one or down 3-0, it's 3-0 is just about insurmountable, but being down 2-1, Game 4 in our building, as we have seen in a number of series that we have been involved in, it allows us that opportunity to use our crowd and continue to keep us energized and obviously having the last line change and all the rest of that that you get from playing in your home building, it gives us that much more of an advantage.
Q. Chris, are you aware when Eric Staal is on the ice? Is that something you sort of tweak to and does it sort of affect how you position yourself, through the early part of this series? Talking about Ryan Smyth, you played against him for a long time, are there things that surprise you about him now that you play alongside of him, either personality-wise or whatever?
CHRIS PRONGER: I am not matched up against Staal's line. More on the power play, just being aware of where he is on the ice, he likes that off-side one-timer, that kind of soft area over there. You got to be aware of where he's at and obviously the seam and where that pass is going to be coming from.
In Smitty's instance, you look at his shot, he has got a muffin, but its effective. Off-speed pitch, we have seen him score a number of goals this year. I don't know how they go in but they go in. It's accurate, and you know, he drives to the net hard. He does all the little things that are necessary, he's great in the corners, great along the boards, and the little things that a lot of times get overlooked, that he's kind of honed and he's extremely good at. They don't get a lot of notice, but they certainly do in our locker room.
Q. Chris, between you and Jason Smith you have blocked 100 shots in these playoffs. Those seem kind of like goaltender stats. Talk about that aspect of your tandem on defense and also what you thought last night when you saw Jason get hit high by that Brind'Amour shot?
CHRIS PRONGER: Well, I think from that respect we have both kind of played like that our whole careers, just blocking shots and getting in lanes and things of that nature, and at this time of the season you do whatever it takes, and that's no different when you see Gator go down, kind of throwing his life in front of that puck and getting it in the throat, you know, he's a warrior, he's going to do whatever it takes to win and we have seen that throughout his career and in the way that he plays and obviously leads our team by example in that respect.
It's an unfortunate situation. The puck bounces right back on the guy's tape, he makes a great play to block a shot like that, you know, a lot of times that doesn't happen but that's just kind of the breaks they are getting right now.
Q. Ethan spoke of Jussi, how all the goalies kind of went through difficult times this year at different times. How he's kind of fought through it and how you have confidence going into this situation with him coming in and how he's kind of added to that particularly with his play last night?
CHRIS PRONGER: Definitely. I think both goalies throughout the course of the year were criticized a great deal. He had to go through a lot of adversity. It's never easy. Once Roli was acquired, they didn't stop working hard, they almost ramped it up, and wanted to stay sharp. And Jussi hasn't played in probably three, four months, a lot of times it's difficult, but it's a credit to him and the way he's handled himself and executed in practice and trying to stay sharp and really continue to allow guys to have that confidence in him because we see the way they work hard in practice and see the way they prepare even though they are not playing. That's why he's able to play as well as he has in the playoffs in the last couple of games is because of the way he's worked hard in practice with Pete and in getting out before practice and working on little things and trying to continue to get better.
Q. They have made a big effort on their penalty killing to try to take you away up high from the point. What adjustments can you make to free yourself up a bit Game 4. Secondly talk about Mac T's preparation level and his ability to make adjustments during the series.
CHRIS PRONGER: Power play they have obviously pressing out three high. We need to work some low plays and work some slot plays to try to back them off. We will try to work a little bit more of that in Game 4. We had a couple of chances in Game 3, the one I tried to kind of flip to Hork in the middle just bounced over his stick.
And with Mac T, you know, I think it's a credit to him in allowing us to have some say in what we're seeing on the ice, and he's able to implement not only the stuff that he sees but what we see. And having that dialogue with the players in formulating a little bit of the game plan in what we think might work and what we have done on the ice and obviously what he sees in the video, he's able to continue to tweak the game plan and tweak the way we are playing throughout the course of the game from period to period. He's doing a great job and obviously behind the bench he's making the changes that are necessary for us to have a chance to win.
Q. Chris with the power play, you were up 1-0 last night you had four opportunities including the two-man, didn't get it done. At some point is that going to bite you in this series if you are not better than a 1 for 20 clip like you are after three games?
CHRIS PRONGER: It's either going to bite us or it means we're due, and you can look at it both ways. Obviously your glass is half empty and mine is half full. I think that we have had -- we have had a number of good scoring opportunities, we just haven't been able to bury it. Our time will come. We'll be able to get the puck in the net when we need it and certainly you know, we're 1 for 20. What are they, 4 for 30? Something like that, I mean, they are not exactly lighting the house on fire either.
So it's a matter of us you know, getting to the net a little bit more, making sure when we do have those opportunities we have got to bury them. That five-on-three, you know, that puck has got to get in the net for us, that's for sure.
Q. Ryan, Ethan described you as having a horrible shot and a terrible stick and a slap shot my five year old could shoot better and Chris suggested that your shot was a muffin, can you speak to that?
RYAN SMYTH: Oh, geez. I am speechless. Yeah, I am not the flashiest player that's for sure. Everybody knows my style, I get a lot of those goals like I did last night, but that's about it (laughs). I don't want to comment on those two.
Q. Do they tease you like that all the time?
RYAN SMYTH: (Laughs) Do they teach me?
Q. Tease you.
RYAN SMYTH: All the time, yeah. It's non-stop, it's not just those guys, I think it's pretty much everybody in that locker room.
I think, what, during the year we had that skills competition, who was I up against, Marty Reasoner, at the time? Beat me by a couple MP's, miles per hour.
Q. I guess if you have anything else to say in your defense go ahead, but when you did score that goal last night, it was in front of Mark Messier, a guy that you grew up watching. Just explain what it meant to you to score that big goal on this stage for the Oilers in front of a guy who is standing up, applauding for you who I am sure you applauded a lot for him when you were a young guy?
RYAN SMYTH: It's great to see those guys in the house here, it's many years of watching and you know, tears, crying because they have excelled and they have won and know what it takes to win. He has got six of them, I believe, him and Kevin.
I was actually before the game I think CBC was showing "Boys In The Bus," and Glenny Anderson scored that one just inside the crease there. I mean it was a nice move. It wasn't like mine, shoved in. But just the emotion that they had on their faces, him and Mark Messier, when they scored and that had a little flashback when that happened.
But by no means is this series over. We have got to make sure that we are ready for Game 4 here.
Q. Was there ever a time when you doubted that this team would be able to build up again and challenge for the Stanley Cup again given the economics of the league, given every time the franchise developed players they had to trade them away or sell them off because of the whole economic situation?
RYAN SMYTH: Yeah, I think with the new CBA I think there's a whole new balance around the league now. Obviously we're recognized as a small-market team, a team that works hard, but you know, just squeaks into the playoffs and gets first or second round, maybe, now weak compete. Obviously guys like Michael Peca, Chris Pronger, even if he carves me, he's a great player. Getting Dwayne Roloson and Sergei at the deadline, these sort of things won't happen if it weren't for what has happened and I think it makes a difference around the league, obviously you are getting two teams in the Stanley Cup Finals that aren't well recognized to be here, but the will to win on both sides has been that right now.
Q. Obviously having a little fun about your shot and everything but the truth is no one drives to the net quite like you, is there a reason why you are so successful? Is it something you have thought about it? Is it just reaction? Do you do it different than other people? Why are you so successful at driving the net when others aren't?
RYAN SMYTH: I will say there's no pictures on the score sheet. (LAUGHTER)
I don't know what it is. I have done it since I was in juniors, just driving the net, you know, the pucks got to end up there. The thing with traffic obviously, screening the goaltender or trying to get him off his game or make him look around me, a little distraction in that area. I think that's how I have been. That's how I have made my living and obviously if it helps the team, then great.
Q. Jussi, the guys would were just speaking to just the difficult season it was for a goaltender in Edmonton, and the chance that you now have to kind of wipe away the regular season and people think of the now as opposed to the goalie rotation, just everything that kind of went on during the year, what it means to have this second chance, maybe you would call it?
JUSSI MARKKANEN: Obviously we have had some good times and tough times in the past, but at the same time, we were in the playoff hunt all year long and pretty much more in the fifth to eighth spot than looking outside in. Of course there was a lot of talk about goaltending and obviously when you have a really good team around and maybe expectations are even higher than fifth to eighth spot, obviously. Obviously you look at the stats and maybe our goaltending stats wasn't quite there.
But I mean, it's a little bit different team right now too, like I just heard Ryan talk about the new guys we get at the deadline and obviously a new goaltender too, but we are playing really good hockey right now, so it's easier for a goaltender to be behind a good defensive hockey team.
But about a second chance for me, I don't know about second chance, but it's like kind of a new start when you are in the bench or press box for quite a long time. So you just try to enjoy the moment. And like everybody have said, it doesn't -- Stanley Cup Finals doesn't come -- well, there's a lot of people who never played in the Stanley Cup Finals, so you have got to really enjoy the opportunity we have here.
Q. Smitty, Ethan was talking about watching Ales Hemsky from the bench. Does it stand out to you maybe one of the most amazing things you have seen him do or something you ever saw, where is he on the curve in terms of how good he's going to be, how far along is he?
RYAN SMYTH: He's an excellent player. Obviously his skill takes over in that area, and his will to carry that puck and he's not afraid to even take it to the net. Obviously he's more of a play-maker, and sets up, but you know, he's not a very big guy but he's solid. His legs are really big and he finds a way to create opportunities for himself or for his teammates. Obviously it's a great player to play with. Makes, I know, Hork and my job a lot easier when he draws guys to him and gives us that opening. He's obviously young and he has got a lot of career left in him in the NHL, that's for sure.
Q. Ryan, you spent a lot of time with this team either going out in the first round or not making the playoffs. Some of your successes have been international with World Championships and things. Do you ever wonder whether you would be able to deliver in the playoffs with this team? Did you ever wonder if you got the chance whether you'd be able to produce?
RYAN SMYTH: I have always taken the opportunity to go over and play in the World Championships as an honor and I think we should be playing this time of the year anyways. The experience that you gain over there, it doesn't hurt you one bit, and I think, you know, you can bring your success over there back here and I think I have learned so much over there that, you know, hopefully it can trickle through our lineup here. Obviously I want to win here. That's every kid's dream growing up is winning that Stanley Cup. And playing for your country is quite an honor, but winning the Stanley Cup would be another feather in the cap.
Q. Over the years going into your dressing room it's obvious the respect that you guys have for your captain then you have got your two alternate captain like Michael Peca, Chris Pronger, Steve Staios, I wouldn't be surprised if you were captain of your junior team. What does it mean to the strength of the team to have that much broadly spread leadership?
JARRET STOLL: I think any successful team needs a very good core group of guys. For example, the leadership core and this team, you know, maybe guys don't have an A or C on their jersey, but the core group of guys that we have on this team is unbelievable. The guys that have been here six, seven, eight years, through the tough times of the Dallas days, losing to Dallas in the first round all the time and just falling short that way. But you just watch Jason Smith, Steve Staios, Ryan, Ethan Moreau, Peca, Pronger all these guys watch them play, how they prepare, how they just act off the ice and they are a great pros, that's something that I am learning. That's something that we are all learning as young players on our team. And definitely great guys to learn from. Always set that right example, whether we're on the ice, off the ice, on the road whatever the case may be, these guys are you know, perfect guys to learn from and I am definitely taking it all in, just learning as much as I can to hopefully become a better player and better pro. That's the bottom line there.
Q. Both Smiths, Jason first: Carolina was complaining about the goals last night, the winning goal, did they have reason to complain and how can they use that as a motivational edge?
FERNANDO PISANI: Fernando Pisani. (Laughs) Go ahead, Smitty.
RYAN SMYTH: Come again with the question.
Q. Did Carolina have any reason to complain about your winning goal last night and how can they use that as a motivational edge in Game 4?
RYAN SMYTH: Well, if they are going to complain about that one then I would say Ethan Moreau's goal should have counted. All I remember is it coming up off the goalie and they said it went off my stick, I don't know, I don't even know. I thought it went off my crest in my jersey then I got hit from behind, but you know, it's nothing, like I said early -- it's not the prettiest goal, but it counted and you know, obviously that's what the video replay is all about now. You guys don't miss a thing out there, so I think those things you know, can sway both ways, obviously it turned out in our favor that we won, and the goal counted, teams can feed off of that, the fact that, you know, they could have gone into overtime and you never know, something else could have happened, but you know, it's in the books now and now we're just looking ahead at Game 4. I know they are too.
End of FastScripts...