The Sabres will take on the Northeast Division rival in Game 1 on Thursday night at 7 p.m.
The following is excerpts from the interview at HSBC Arena, broken down by section.
For the full interview, click here or scroll to the bottom of the page and click play.
THE LINEUPWhat can you tell us initially about the status of Tim Connolly and Jochen Hecht?
Connolly has been skating over the weekend and we’re optimistic about him practicing and possibly playing on Thursday. Jochen Hecht
hasn’t skated yet, but we’re not ruling him out.How about Drew [Stafford]?
Drew, he’s a question mark too… We’re optimistic that he may be ready too.Are you kind of relieved to get through some of these games at the end of the season? It seemed like you were running into injury problems you hadn’t had all year.
The encouraging part was to get through and win some key games without Vanek, without Connolly, without Jochen Hecht
. Our top two point producers were out and we had some younger players fill in and do a good job for us. now it looks like we’re going to get some guys back and be healthy, or healthier. Even to get Pat [Kaleta] back in the lineup for a limited opportunity was good.Does that cast hamper [Kaleta] at all?
I would imagine so yeah… I don’t want to answer for him but to just say that we’ll put a cast on your wrist and immobilize it and try to play hockey isn’t the easiest thing. But I thought he handled that pretty well.Is Tyler Ennis’ role based on who is available or is he going to earn a spot on this roster based on how he’s played, regardless of injuries?
Again, I think we will have to make that decision based on Hecht and Connolly and Stafford being available to play.On the defensive side, have you seen enough out of [Andrej] Sekera or [Chris] Butler to say you have a plan for one to play, or are you still going to rotate?
I don’t have any definitive plan right now. That rotation may continue, it may be based on the first playoff game on how well we play as a team, how well the pair plays and we’ll go from there.Have you liked the way they have responded though?
I think that’s a tough situation… players don’t want to sit out. They don’t want to be part of the rotation. At the same time we went pretty well with the rotation. I just didn’t feel it was a good situation for either of the players to sit out for an extended period of time.
THE POSTSEASONNow that you’re three days away from the first [playoff game] in three years, what kind of emotion are you feeling now?
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I’m excited. Obviously to be back in this, it’s the best time of the year. The weather outside is nice, just the atmosphere – I’m looking forward to getting after it here at home with our fans and the visions of the plaza being filled up with people, driving here to the rink and seeing the parking lots with people... I think Saturday will be a tremendous day here with an afternoon game. It’s going to be great. It’s great to be back in. We said the pain of not being in, you’ve got to be excited to be back in again because a couple years of being absent really hurt. You’re 5-1 in the first round. You’re pretty good at this. Do you get kind of intellectually, competitively energized by this?
When you play the same opponent game in and game out, you get to study that opponent. You try to find every little nook and cranny you can to find a little bit of an advantage. We’ve played them six times and the six games were extremely close; the record indicates that, the special teams were close, you’ve got the top two goaltenders right now going at it head-to-head… We’ve got some questions, we’ve got some young players that have never played in the playoffs. I’d imagine they have questions too, but we have to make sure that we really worry about how we’re going to play and play to our strengths.Do you feel pressure? You’re a senior coach in the League… you’re expected to win.
I saw that somebody already picked the Bruins so I don’t know if we’re expected to win. I don’t feel any pressure, no. I felt pressure as a younger coach. I feel the pressure to dot every ‘t’ and cross every ‘i’ and make sure the players are ready to play.THE BRUINSHow much different do you have to be offensively, given the fact that you’ve only scored 11 goals against them in six games?
They are a tough team to play against. We are going to have to take advantage of our offensive opportunities and I think part of the key of that, is if we can get a lead in the game and get them out of playing the type of game that they want to play. If we get the lead, they are probably going to have to go after it a little bit harder in some situations. Teams are good in this team when playing with the lead. We’re a good team when playing with the lead. They are a good team when they play with the lead so that’s all going to depend.GOALTENDINGTwelve years ago someone said that you were an average team with a great goalie. I think there is some of that sentiment out there about your team now. Does your team think of that at all and do they feel like they need to prove themselves?
I think you always have to prove yourself. They may say that about the Bruins right now, because of where their goaltending is at. They may say that about us because of where our goaltending is at. Sometimes that’s a jealousy factor around the League too. On the offensive side of it, in the East, I think we’re third or fourth overall in the East… stats are what they are. Defensively we’re in that same category throughout the League. Those are good numbers to hang on to. I’d like our goaltending stats to be the best in the playoffs now. They can say we’re a goaltender driven team again.Can you talk about the match-up with [Tuukka] Rask?
He’s really blossomed. He’s done a real nice job for them. It’s going to be a good challenge for us. We have to make sure that we’re able to answer the bell, to get traffic, to make it tough on him, we’ve got to get second opportunities. We have to make sure that he has to battle on some opportunities to make it extremely tough on him.Was that the biggest thing, maybe in the head-to-heads, just not creating enough traffic?
I think that’s part of it. You’re able to defend by the way the game goes. We had some good opportunities, even in the last couple games to get traffic, to get more traffic, to get inside and I don’t think we did quite as good a job as we’d want to do. I think some it was based on maybe our youth, maybe our size. But I think with the players coming back into the lineup that we’ve got, we can do a better job inside. You had a big task this year to massage Ryan [Miller]’s minutes and his rest. He ended up, with many other goalies, actually playing more minutes and here you are at the end of the season and he’s got four or five days off before the first playoff game. You’ve got to feel like you went out in ideal fashion?
I said it was important, even before we went into the weekend games that we had a schedule in place and we were going to keep it. That was built on the fact that we didn’t know whether we’d play Wednesday or Thursday. He’s had a trying year. He didn’t get the rest that some of the other goaltenders got around the League in the two-week [Olympic] stint, and he faced an extreme amount of pressure if you look at the Olympics over two weeks – maybe not physically, but mentally. The time off, I think, is a real good thing for him. Come Thursday night, he’ll be well rested and mentally he should be clear and focused.
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