May 15, 2001
ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI: Practice Day
THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.
Q. What about Yelle?
COACH HARTLEY: It's going to be a game time decision. Bruised shoulder, feels better today and we're going to give him treatments and we're going to make the final decision at game time tomorrow.
Q. What about his role in faceoffs?
COACH HARTLEY: If he can go. He won't have a big role. But, you know, like that's something that -- other guys will step up. Like, you know, it's playoffs. It's a matter of opportunities for all of us. Joe Sakic's getting better. We always keep him in our back pocket too. If he needs to go, Joe's always ready to go. Chris Drury, Danny Hinote are capable of going, Steve Reinprecht. So we still have like good options.
Q. Joe took a couple faceoffs last night. Is he getting better?
COACH HARTLEY: Yeah. Like we don't want to waste any energy with Joe like on faceoff where, you know, pain is still there. But definitely his shoulder's getting better. You look at him shoot, you look at him skate, you look at him work in the corners. Like he's working with more and more confidence. As soon as he's going to be feeling like close enough to 100 percent, like he's going to be taking most of the draws again.
Q. Why is it tough to win Game 3?
COACH HARTLEY: Well, like on our side, I don't think that we can change our approach. You know, Game 1 we had good focus. We stepped up real well last night. So I think that our approach is going to be the same. Like we have a system. We have confidence in our athletes, and it's all a matter of performance. We need to keep raising the bar and making sure that our executions, making sure that our mental preparation is at the right place.
Q. Can you talk about Ville Nieminen, how he's playing?
COACH HARTLEY: He's playing good. You know, Ville is a fun guy to work around. Like always has a smile on his face. You know, he got called up a couple of times at training camp last year. He was disappointed when we sent him back to Hershey. And he just took advantage of the situation. We put him with Peter and Chris when we had injuries, and gave us a couple of big goals. And the ball started to roll for him and, you know, he's progressing, he's gaining confidence. He's maturing around NHL hockey. This guy has lots of skills, lots of speed, and he's valuable to us in the playoffs.
Q. You've known him for a long time. Is he a bit different?
COACH HARTLEY: Well, close to. You know, like there's never a dull moment with Nieminen. In the minors, I went to buy a car with him. That was pretty special. You know, like I spent the day with him the day that his father passed away. You know, I had many experiences with Nieminen, because it was his rookie year. He was calling his mom in Finland with his cellar phone. He had some pretty good bills that year and he grew up around the game, around like lifestyle in North America. He's a product of our organization. He paid his dues in the minors and you know it's great to see one of our products like get on the ice and be a valuable part of us.
Q. Is Patrick playing at a new and different level or is this just the same?
COACH HARTLEY: You know, I think that Patrick is Patrick. You look at his accomplishments, you look at his career, but, you know, right now, he's at the top of his zone. Like not too many guys can play in his zone and right now he's at the top of his own zone. So like guys are having fun. Like Patrick gives us, you know, like the luxury of maybe taking a chance where maybe we shouldn't take a chance or maybe when it's not common sense of taking a chance because we know that Patrick might come up still with the big save. You know, like he's doing this time after time and you know, we're winning. So, you know, confidence is growing around Patrick.
Q. Milan is quietly leading in playoffs for the year.
COACH HARTLEY: Yeah, Milan is in his third year with us. So much skill, and like he has a great hockey sense. He knows where to find the open ice. And as soon as he gets that puck, like he has such a quick release. His accuracy is unbelievable. Like he can hit those inside posts. He can read what the goalies give him. He's playing so well with his head up. Very rarely he shoots the puck kind of blind. He knows exactly where it's going, plus he know where it should be going also. He reads what the goalie gives him and he takes advantage of it.
Q. Is activating one of the Hershey guys a realistic option at this point?
COACH HARTLEY: We're going to see. Like everyone in Hershey, like they had the adequate playoff run. They just got (inaudible) in the weekend. So we're going to evaluate the status of Yelle tomorrow. And if we feel that Yelle can go, we'll go to turn around and we'll have to make a decision. Right now we have Scott Parker, we have Kelly Fairchild. So we're going to see what comes tomorrow with Stephane Yelle and after this we're going make the final decision.
Q. Is Foote feeling fine?
COACH HARTLEY: Yes. Foote is fine.
Q. St. Louis is one of the teams that tried to go after Ray Bourque last year and Rob Blake this year. Have you ever pondered the idea of what if St. Louis had gotten Bourque?
COACH HARTLEY: Well, maybe if they would have got Rob Blake, maybe they wouldn't get -- maybe they wouldn't have got Keith Tkachuk. So it's always funny sometimes how things go. But, you know, like, hey, they have a great hockey club. Whenever a team can have like a Keith Tkachuk on the second line and a Cory Stillman on the third line, you know, like you say, wow. Like this team has no weaknesses. So you look at that team like the way that their season. They have many injuries. They went down at that time, but they're right back up. And they're a great hockey club.
Q. Ray had a couple opportunities in Game 7 and in the goal last night. Is he getting more opportunities?
COACH HARTLEY: I think he's getting rewarded for his opportunities. I think the opportunities were there before. Either goalies were making great saves or the shots were being blocked. But right now the positive is that the reward is there and, again, you know, it's such an important part of our game whenever our defensemen can contribute to our offense. You know, like that's giving us like good life and we take advantage of it.
Q. Talk about Patrick playing the best hockey in playoffs.
COACH HARTLEY: Well, I think that we're building around Patrick. Like, you know, like Patrick is obviously right now like the spine of this hockey club. You know, he's giving us like the big saves, he's giving us confidence. He's giving us that will to keep moving. "Boys, I'll protect the fort and you go on the attack and you get me the goals." And right now it's a great team concept. We know that Patrick will guard the fort. And we're giving him like the leads. It's easy to play playoff hockey -- I shouldn't say it's easy, but it's easier to play playoff hockey with the lead. They kept coming at us last night, but I felt that we played very well and we protected the lead very well.
Q. Speaking of goalies, do you think there's any chance (inaudible)?
COACH HARTLEY: I said it before Game 1. But, you know, I make decisions for the burgundy team. So I don't know what's going to come up, but, hey, like I said yesterday, three teams out of four are getting great goaltending. One team is getting unbelievable goaltending. I think this right now that's the difference in the playoffs. We just have to keep going, but tomorrow night's going to be a big game for both teams.
Q. So when you said that last night, about three out of four, you meant that the fourth was Patrick?
COACH HARTLEY: Yes. Well, unless you want to contradict me (laughing). I think that one team is getting unbelievable goaltending. Have a good day, everyone.
End of FastScripts....