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May 9, 2007
BUFFALO, NEW YORK: Practice Day
PHIL LEGAULT: We're going to start off our news conference this afternoon with our General Manager, John Muckler, and our head coach, Bryan Murray, following will be a couple of players, Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza, and Ray Emery.
The other players with trickle in, and you can let us know who you will need under that group. I will turn it over to your questions.
John Muckler obviously first gentleman, and then Bryan Murray on the far end.
Bryan, there's been the obvious lead-up, the obvious connections, the obvious history, and there's been a lot of talk about that. Is it about time to get the games going?
COACH BRYAN MURRAY: I think both teams finishing, you know, the way we did in the previous series, we've had enough time, very definitely to allow you guys to have some stories and get it all going, and now we just -- it's up to the players. We'll just drop the puck and play. I think it will be a heck of a series.
Q. Does it affect either -- all the hype, all the talk. Does it permeate into the locker rooms?
COACH BRYAN MURRAY: I don't think, really. We always have comments, no matter who you play, there are always -- reasons to get competitive before the games or as the games go on. So I think we all know the history. We all know -- we've played eight times this year -- we've had good games in each and every case. We've got good players on both teams.
It's a matter of just playing now.
Q. John, is it any more fun for you? It's been awhile since you've been here. Do you still enjoy having a series against the Sabres?
JOHN MUCKLER: Yeah. I think it's got to be fun because we're two good hockey clubs. I live here in the summer time. It's nice to come home, but I think the series is going to be real great because the talent and skill level of both teams, both teams have a lot of depth.
It should be real good hockey to watch, and I think the better factor of all this is going to be the fans. So we're looking forward to it. I'm sure they are, too.
Q. You guys have developed a rivalry. This is the second year in a row now in the playoffs. You can almost remember the old Detroit/Colorado series, every year they played in the playoffs, intense series. Can you see Buffalo and Ottawa turning into that?
JOHN MUCKLER: I don't like to draw a comparison, but I think you see a lot of intensity from both hockey clubs. It will be a physical series. I think that all the games that we played with them, they're close. How many have been one-goal games? I think there's a possibility of that.
There's a possibility of a lot of things because of the skill level of both hockey clubs. Mainly it's going to be good hockey. There's no question about that.
It will get physical at times, I imagine.
Q. Bryan, how long did last year's loss stick with you? Did you ever think "I wish we had a second chance at that"?
COACH BRYAN MURRAY: We had our second chance. We played five games, we didn't beat them. That's the bottom line. That's what happened. It bothered me the way we played in a couple games.
After Game 1 I didn't think we allowed ourselves to be as good as we could have been, and that was kind of a crazy game on the part of both teams. Buffalo's win and the carryover wasn't a positive thing. I think we all started to question ourselves, and we took a little bit of our talent out of it because of worrying about giving up shots, giving up chances, and it's good to get a second chance now.
We knew it would take a lot of effort on our part to regroup and get it going, and fortunately for us the second half of the year allowed that to happen.
Q. Because you've seen each other eight times this year, is there less of a feeling-out process in the first game? You guys almost know each others tricks by now.
COACH BRYAN MURRAY: I think we go play. The teams will have maybe a little different things during the regular season. The skill level, the competitive people we have, the competitive nature of our business, I think we're just going to drop the puck and play good hockey.
Q. Bryan or John, Alfredsson has been at times kind of a whipping boy up there, so to speak. Obviously he felt pretty bad, as he said, about what happened last year in Game 5 with the winning goal, getting beat on that.
You two have been totally supportive of him especially in the role of his Captaincy. Can you speak to a little bit about why that is and what he brings. It's obviously paid off.
COACH BRYAN MURRAY: I think he's a great guy, number one. I think that's most important. I think he's a real character person. Got a tremendous work ethic.
I think the players most importantly respect him on our hockey team. I put him in the position last year to play the point in the power play and sometimes Alfredsson gets attacked and whatever. It was a one on two, should have been looked after. It wasn't.
I didn't think it was anything other than a great goal by Pominville. I recently thought he made a terrific play, and Alfie came back this year with basically a clean slate as far as anything like that was concerned.
I think the biggest thing with him he just wants to be -- he wants to be an important player, he wants to be a good player, and, as I say, the drop of the puck -- the only people that wanted him out of the town were the media. We let them write their stories.
I thought that every player on our team has such a respect level for him, that's the guy right now they're following.
Q. I thought I read somewhere that he had -- there was a feeling he was taking too much of the burden on himself; that he was trying too hard as Captain to share the load for everybody instead of taking care of himself.
COACH BRYAN MURRAY: I think that happens to good players. I think they want to be important. They feel responsible.
That's why he's a great Captain. He wants to be a responsible player, and he took a little, maybe too much of a burden at times. But I think this year he's found a way just to be part of the group, to show them how to do it, to work hard, to be a great -- I think skill players that work real hard in practice and teach people how to do things in practice have a big influence on the team and Alfie has done that and, as I said, much more.
Q. Bryan, I know every year, every season is different. You've only been there now for two years. What gives you the belief, though, that team is capable of shedding that playoff label?
COACH BRYAN MURRAY: I'm not sure what the label is.
Q. The fact that this is obviously the second time in the Conference Finals and --
COACH BRYAN MURRAY: I think every year is an individual year. I think -- I've said this to many people in the past. I think we have to learn from history. We have to get better because of history, but we don't have to live in the past. And I really think this is a totally different team. John made a number of changes over the summer, to start off with.
I think our goaltending now is a real high level in spite of what people think in comparison. I feel very, very comfortable with Ray Emery as our goaltender.
I just think that we've had a few guys mature to a level that have made tremendous difference in the type of team we have.
Q. With salary cap and stuff, you had some tough decisions over the summer to make. Dom is gone, Smolinski is gone, Havlat is gone. You decided you needed Phillips and Redden. What made you guys decide this is the way we've got to go because they paid dividends for you by keeping those guys?
JOHN MUCKLER: Well, in the case of Chara, it was money. We couldn't pay him 7.5 over five years. I think out of things that are negative such as Chara leaving, there's some positives of that.
Chara was taking about 26 minutes a game. Volchenkov was maybe getting about eight minutes a game because of that. When you lose somebody, you have to move on and some other people have to step up, and it turned out that Volchenkov was one of the main guys that stepped up and now getting 22, 23 minutes a game and playing the way the season he had this year was phenomenal.
Phillips is no longer Chara's partner anymore. He's Mr. Phillips now, and he stepped up and became the number one defenseman on our hockey club.
So that wouldn't have happened if Chara was still there.
Then we turned around and signed Chara and we signed Volchenkov for less than what we would have had to pay -- not Chara, Volchenkov and Phillips for less than what we paid Chara. It turned out to be a positive. That's one of the things I think has changed our hockey club.
In trading Chara we went in a different direction. We thought we should have had some offense people and got Preissing and Corvo came in and helped the offensive part of it tremendously.
Q. Much is being done to downplay the rivalry. There's a lot of story lines with the rivalry in general.
While the players can say that it's all a new series, would you admit that it could take a very small thing to set everything off again because of the intensity of where you are in the playoffs?
COACH BRYAN MURRAY: It could happen. Anything can happen in our sport. That's a great thing about hockey. Emotion, physical contact, speed -- they're all part of it.
We did have an incident that obviously we didn't agree with. We had the same type of thing happen with Pittsburgh when our player got hit in the head and it was a hockey check as we felt it was a hockey check before. Much was made of it.
It's been -- that was in the regular season. You can do things at that time that you could never do in the playoffs because it costs you probably a hockey game but could make the difference.
We recognize all of that, and it was a great story line, and we weren't very happy with it. Bottom line is it's a new time of year, new series. We're trying to get to the finals. Buffalo are trying to get to the finals. So you have to put it on park or on a shelf for the time being.
Who knows next year first game of the year something will happen, but for this playoff round, I believe it will just be hockey.
Q. Do you have to say anything to your players to keep their emotions in check, or do you worry about that at all?
COACH BRYAN MURRAY: No. These are professional people. Both -- these are professional people and you don't remind them. Don't turn the puck over because Afinogenov might get a breakaway from you.
Q. As productive as your top line as been through this post season, most of the regular season, do you need a little bit more production from your second and third lines?
COACH BRYAN MURRAY: I think that's the only way you win in the playoffs and other guys chip in. Fortunately for us we've had some characters pick up. Mike Fisher got a great goal against New Jersey, and Vermette got a good goal.
Any team that goes any distance has to be a variety of people do things for them.
Q. You didn't play Buffalo when Zubrus was there. Does he give them a little bit of a better look?
COACH BRYAN MURRAY: Big guy, puck control guy, works the cycle real well for them.
I've always liked him. I think he's a good defensive, responsible player. Big people like that that can play have a presence and a value.
Q. Two more questions. Do you think the team's mindset is a little stronger, maybe a little more stable this year with Ray having been in net all year long? Last year Dom was there. He knew what he was doing except not playing, and, you know this year they've had a chance to play through it. Ray is the guy.
COACH BRYAN MURRAY: That's been the huge difference in our hockey team. If Dominik would have played last year he would have been a heck of a player for us. He was a top end guy as we're seeing this year.
We were a little fragile. As I mentioned or implied, Game 1 showed that.
This year we've had Ray as our goaltender. He's the guy everybody has seen how he can play in practice, so we're ready with him and he's going to be able to step up and there's a comfort level that definitely wasn't there last year, but there's -- more importantly there's a group of guys more committed from my point of view anymore, more committed to going further in the playoffs. That's been the biggest factor.
Q. The last time you played these guys, half of them were from the Rochester Americans. How much more dangerous are they than last time?
COACH BRYAN MURRAY: We really like the fact they're healthy. We don't want anything other than healthy players. We want to be healthy, too. So at the end, the story line is the best team won.
Q. Mike, are you aware of his status?
COACH BRYAN MURRAY: He's got a playoff beard and he tells me he's ready to play. He'll be ready to go when we need him.
Q. Did Comrie get through okay today?
COACH BRYAN MURRAY: Comrie always had the okay to play. He's a small guy like Daniel. I knew they were going to match against each other. I wanted to be fresh.
PHIL LEGAULT: Obviously knowing these guys don't need introductions, Daniel Alfredsson on the far, Jason Spezza in the middle, and Ray Emery close to me here. Questions.
Q. Daniel, every year I come to playoff time, people talk about the Senators history in the playoffs. What makes you believe that this team is different and can erase all the lingering doubts of what's gone on in the past?
DANIEL ALFREDSSON: I think just the belief we have in the locker room, the way we played throughout the season, I think speaks for itself, and we feel very confident where we are. We know that there's tough challenges ahead, but that's something we look forward to. We seem to compete every night, and that's a good thing.
Q. Daniel, last year what happened in your series against Buffalo? You took it pretty hard from what I read. Do you like this chance at a rematch? Not for a chance at redemption, so to speak. I'm not looking for bulletin board fodder. Are you kind of glad that you get this chance to play them?
DANIEL ALFREDSSON: Yeah. Like you said, not only because of what happened last year, but they were the best team in the league this year. To go all the way, you have to beat some good teams and Buffalo is definitely one of them.
I think we're looking forward to this challenge. It's different from the Pittsburgh and the others we played earlier. They pose different challenges. We feel really good where we are. It's going to be fun to go up against a good team.
Q. Ray, the last time we saw you in Buffalo, were smiling with Andrew Peters. What are your thoughts going back to that, or is that -- what are your thoughts going back to that? Does it matter?
RAY EMERY: I don't think it matters. You know, it was kind of like a team building thing for us. It was big around the league, but I don't think it doesn't have anything to do with this series at all.
Q. Ray, you obviously were involved in that, and your most recent bit of news around here, you said there wasn't much to do in Buffalo on your days off. Do you feel like a marked man around here?
RAY EMERY: I don't know. Maybe. It doesn't take my focus away from playing at all.
Q. Does that add to your excitement about playing at all, knowing the stakes and probably going to get some boos when you step on the ice?
RAY EMERY: Yeah. You get that kind of underdog feeling, bit of added adrenaline that helps.
Q. Where are you mentally knowing you're the guy. You're the undisputed No. 1 last year, Dominik is coming back, he's not coming back, nobody knows what's going on. You are the goaltender this year. Has that helped you a lot?
RAY EMERY: Well, I felt alright last year. It's not that I was looking over my shoulder. The media made a big deal about it, but, you know, I think I can contribute more this year definitely. I think I'm a bit more experienced and knowing what to expect more, been more comfortable.
Q. Where have your greatest improvements been? What do you think that's changed between last year and this year?
RAY EMERY: I've kind of just worked on everything a little bit. All around game, just moving and save selection, better positioning, just some different things that help out.
Q. Jason, you're going to see a lot of Chris Drury, I would imagine. Talk about playing against him and what it takes to play up against him.
JASON SPEZZA: He's a great player. I don't think it will be -- we played every regular season game. We play against each other. We're usually head to head. Everybody is going to raise their game going into the series, and I'm sure he's going to be no different. So I think personally, you know, it's fun to have a challenge like that, to go through some of the best guys to get to the top, and it definitely gives a little side bar for me to think about how to beat him on little things, and it just kind of adds to the excitement.
Q. Are Lydman and Tallinder hard to play against? Sometimes you don't hear a lot about them.
JASON SPEZZA: They're definitely an underrated shutdown pair, I think. They've done a good job. They must move their feet real well and get a good first pass. They're definitely a key to why sometimes other teams top guys don't have success.
Q. Given the histories of the sporting histories in the two cities, the fans have always waited for the other shoe to drop. How would you describe the mood back in Ottawa? Are they on edge as much as they are here?
JASON SPEZZA: I think people really believe in it. It's part of our belief in ourselves. We feel like we have a great team. We feel like we have a good opportunity to win. I think the city is really backing us. The fan support has been tremendous. We hope it can be keep getting better and better.
Q. Daniel, what's changed in the mood, the city, the team?
DANIEL ALFREDSSON: You know, consistency is a big part of it. The way we played the second half of the season. We're different attitude around, different coaching staff. So many things that are different.
You can't compare it to previous years or whatnot, but I don't think it really matters. We're happy where we are now, we're happy -- we're at this stage, four teams left, and, you know, we're just going to try to make the most of it.
Q. Is attitude the biggest thing? You lost a lot of big names over the summer, but you're probably a better team right now.
Is attitude the biggest thing?
DANIEL ALFREDSSON: I think we are a better team. There's no question. Attitude is a big thing. I think we were in the Top Four earlier in the year, we were outside the playoffs before Christmas, and had to really put a good push together to make it here. But I think that's the attitude that we have.
Q. Ray, we asked, you know, obviously Ryan has to deal -- Ryan Miller has to deal with, you know, stopping the Senator's talented forwards and scorers. How do you brace for a very similar attack that you just roll four lines and can put up goals in bunches?
RAY EMERY: Well, it's definitely a group effort and, you know, these guys have different strategies that they have to abide by as far as things to prevent -- prevent Buffalo's scoring attack.
I try to simplify things. I play the same way most of the time, just playing the shooter and not trying to give up anything bad. So I kind of approach it the same way.
But definitely, you know, no, I know a guy's tendency and know who is dangerous around the net, watch this or different things like that.
You know, you definitely have to be prepared for some of the higher-end players that these guys have and have quite a few of them.
Q. Jason, you take solace in opening up on the road as opposed to being at home? Last year you were one seed going through and that meant home ice. Does it give you guys some breathing room or good feeling to be out on the road?
JASON SPEZZA: I think it just prevents -- it gives us a little bit different challenge, I think. Sometimes when you have long breaks in between series, guys tend to kind of do their own thing. Everybody spends a lot of time by themselves an getting themselves prepared.
We come on the road and all going to be together for most of the time. It can probably work for an advantage for us if we can get off to a good start here on the road and brings us together closer, maybe put some pressure on them.
So, you know, we're in a little more of an underdog role that than we're used to. We're going to try to us it to our advantage.
Q. You guys don't really consider yourselves the underdogs.
JASON SPEZZA: I don't get caught up in the underdog. Everybody is looking to figure out who the underdoing is. It's a waste of all our time talking about it. They finished with more points than us and we're starting on the road.
Q. What do you do with the baggage from the regular season, from last year's playoffs? Do you internalize that? Do you try and forget about it, put it out of your mind? How do you use that going into this series?
JASON SPEZZA: I think you just -- you have the approach every game definitely. I think when we play the Sabres, we played them differently than when we play the Devils and Penguins. The guys that have played in the American league, we've played countless games against some of the guys -- their main core guys, and there's definitely a little bit more person there because you know the guys. But, if anything, it helps you more because we go through all our team meeting and stuff and we probably don't need it as much as we would against another team because we're very familiar with these guys.
Q. Because are you so familiar with them, is there less of a feeling-out process once you take the ice in Game 1?
JASON SPEZZA: There's always a feeling-out process when you're in the playoffs, but there's this much at stake, we're already this deep into the playoffs. There's no time to hesitate or to think of what really we're doing. You've got react and do what you've done to this point.
PHIL LEGAULT: Very good. Thank you very much.
End of FastScripts