The day before the start of the western conference finals, both teams held their final practices and met the media. Coach Todd McLellan and players Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski, Patrick Marleau, and Dany Heatley spoke with about 25 members of the media. The following is a transcript of the question and answer session held with those Sharks.
Q. Long practices the last couple days. Something you need to keep the edge with the long layoff?
COACH McLELLAN: Not necessarily long. We got through them fairly quick. Got through some of the work we needed to do.
When you look at the week we were faced with, we won not knowing whether we were going to play, so we had to make some decisions based on uncertainty. We revved it up for a couple of days after winning. We took it back down on Wednesday, now we've taken it up for a couple days. I'd like to think that will prepare us.
I'm sure if we come out and play well tomorrow, we've done the right thing. If we don't, there will be some second-guessing on how to plan. But you never know. You have to go with your gut and that's what we've done.
Q. With Joe Thornton's round stepping up in the second round, do you have a sense of what the Hawks will do with Seabrook and Keith? Do you live with the fact if they're on one, have you the other line freed up a bit?
COACH McLELLAN: Well, their checking line of Bolland does a good line, Bolland, Versteeg, and Ladd do a good job. I'm sure they'll look at doing something in that form against one of our two top lines. We'll have to deal with that. Seabrook and Keith played together in the Olympics. They've been a dynamic pair throughout the past few years. They're very good.
After that, they're getting some pretty good contributions from their defensemen, three through six. But it's nothing that Jumbo, Patty, Heater haven't played against for probably 50 of the 82 games this season, throughout the Olympics. You know, they've had some success. If it's not going well, we'll have a plan.
Q. It's seven against eight on the other side. Is it possible to keep your mind from wandering over there?
COACH McLELLAN: It's essential we keep our mind from wandering over there. As soon as you get into somebody else's business, you're not taking care of your own. It could be fatal.
I haven't heard any of our players walking around the locker room having coffee or anything like that talking about what's going on in the other conference. Obviously, the Game 7 situation they talked about. The fact that seven and eight are still in that playoff over there, I don't think means a lot to us right now. All we're doing is looking for the opportunity to play against Chicago and see what we can do there.
Q. What were your thoughts about Game 7?
COACH McLELLAN: The pressure that teams are under is immense. I really feel for the Bruins, the organization, the players, the coaches obviously. On the other hand, you have to really tip your hat to what Philadelphia did. They were persistent, they overcame, were resilient, all those adjectives you want to use to describe a team. They came up with and found a way to do it.
There are some lessons to be learned there maybe for our team. You're never really out of it and you're never really in control of it until it's done.
Q. Doesn't affect you maybe for more attention, obviously you're the series in the spotlight. You get NBC tomorrow. Is that a good thing to have your players put them out there under the big, big spotlight?
COACH McLELLAN: Well, they've been there. Our big players have been there. They played in front of 35 million people in Canada that had no interest in anything else other than watching that game.
They're trying to get to a bigger stage even yet. We're only in the final four. There should be some attention on both series. It really gets cranked up if you're lucky enough to get to the next one and that's what their goal is.
Q. What is your gut feeling tomorrow about how quick these teams are going to be able to get up to speed after the long layoff? Going to be a while in the first period before that happens?
COACH McLELLAN: I think we might see it a little bit earlier. We're not talking about -- again going back to yesterday, we're not talking about playing game 63 in the middle of February on a seven-game road trip. You've had some time to rest. There's some excitement. There's a lot of energy in the building. There's energy around the teams.
For as much as we're concerned about being rusty, I may be a little bit concerned about us being a little bit too overzealous or a little bit edgy. When that happens, your execution is just as poor as if you're rusty.
We have to find that happy medium, get our legs underneath us. I'm sure Chicago and Joel will be telling his players the same thing.
Q. Dan Boyle was saying it's kind of overstated with the rules since the lockout. If you have guys like Blake, Murray, Huskins, does that give you a little more confidence you can counter with what Byfuglien did against Vancouver?
COACH McLELLAN: I believe we can find a way to handle it. We're not going to eliminate it. He's a very big man, he's a very good player. You have to give him that.
Part of it is your goaltender putting up with it and looking through it. In my opinion, I don't think there's anybody better in the league than Holmstrom is in Detroit. Franzen and Cleary, you know, Bertuzzi, we just faced a team full of players that were happy to go and stand in the blue paint, drive the goalie bananas. We found a way to fight through it.
Dustin does an extremely good job. He's becoming one of the best in the league after it. But we just experienced, as I said, a team full that are happy to go there.
SCHULYER BAEHMAN: Thanks a lot, coach.
COACH McLELLAN: Thanks.
Q. Joe, did you watch Game 7 last night and what was your reaction?
JOE THORNTON: Well, I turned it on about halfway in the first. It was 3-0. I thought, Oh, Game 2 is going to be at 6:00, not 7. Halfway in the second, I turned it back on, 3-3. I was like, Wow, poor guys.
But who cares (smiling). Right, who cares?
Q. There's 14 Olympians in this series, eight and six. The theory was that teams with too many Olympians might get tired, hurt them in the playoffs. That's proving not to be true. Can you talk about how that experience helped both teams.
JOE PAVELSKI: I think we're playing at the highest level. You could feel the intensity level a lot of these players played in that gold medal game. The atmosphere and excitement, it felt like playoffs. It was all there.
I think our coaches did a good job of giving us the rest when we needed it afterwards and allowed us to bounce back and proceed with the season.
Q. How do you perceive the series coming up with the Blackhawks as compared to what you saw from the Red Wings? Is it going to be gritty, faster paced?
JOE THORNTON: Well, a little bit of the same, but it's going to be more intense. I think every series, it's gotten better competition. With Colorado, Detroit, now to Chicago. I think they're probably a little bit quicker than Detroit. Their transition game is probably about the same as Detroit.
But I think it's going to be a great series. I think everybody, at least in our locker room, thought it's going to come down to one of us in the conference final going to the final. It's just going to be an exciting series. It's going to be a lot of fun to play in.
JOE PAVELSKI: Yeah, I mean, they're a hungry team. You can see that. They've gotten better as the playoffs have gone on. I think we have too. Both teams are learning.
Every night, obviously with the schedule, both teams will be rested. That should create for, you know, pretty high-tempo games. But they're a good team. They like to run-and-gun. We have to be smart about that, what kind of game we want to play, understand what kind of team is over there.
Q. Big Joe, your coach talked about Bolland and the checking line. You know a lot about Toews, played with him. What did you learn about Bolland's line last series.
JOE THORNTON: To be honest with you, I didn't watch -- I tend just to kind of worry about our games in the post-season. I didn't really watch too much of it. I heard he kind of drove them a little bit crazy.
I think he's excellent. Other than that, I don't know too much. Probably try to get against their lines as much as they can. We're going to have to win faceoffs and things like that. I guess he's turned into a real good checking forward, though.
Q. What do you take of the expectations now on this team, or have been for a few years, not just to get here, but to win a Cup? Is that fair? What do you feel about that sort of things?
JOE THORNTON: Well, ever since I've been here, it's Cup or bust. We realize the expectations out here are probably higher than any city in the Western Conference. We set our sights high in the pre-season to get in the playoffs and then do some damage.
I think we're finally at that point where we're feeling good. We're feeling comfortable with our team, how we play. But you got to win the Cup or you bust.
Q. How much contact have you maintained with Adam Burish since you left Wisconsin?
JOE PAVELSKI: Just a few texts beforehand.
Obviously, we stay in touch. We're good friends. A lot of respect for Adam. But it's a completely different animal out there now with the post-season, the playoffs, separate teams.
He's going to do his best to play his role. You can't worry too much about Adam.
Q. Both of you, talk about the friendships you made on those Olympic teams, now you're facing them tomorrow. What was that like to get to know those guys better in such a big tournament and now trying to beat them?
JOE PAVELSKI: It's always fun. I think everybody's heart is with their organization. You spend a lot of time with them. For those two weeks, it was all USA and fun. We were competing together, working hard. You understand what type of players they are. You see them in practice, see how good they are. Take that away from it.
But, I mean, we're ready to go.
JOE THORNTON: I'll be hacking Johnny as much as I can. I loved him for two weeks in February, but, you know, that's different now (smiling).
Q. Was there any talk about we'll meet you in the playoffs?
JOE THORNTON: I was hoping they'd be done by now (smiling).
SCHULYER BAEHMAN: Thanks a lot, guys.
Q. For an Olympic-themed story on the 14 guys in the series that were all in Vancouver. It seems to have spurred the players on both teams to have a good stretch run.
DANY HEATLEY: Yeah, I think obviously I think we learned a lot, the guys on this team that were part of that tournament. Obviously had a good tournament.
As far as the fatigue factor, you know, I think Todd knew this was coming, the possibility we were going to have a lot of guys all through the years, done a pretty good job of getting days off before the break, and even after the break.
PATRICK MARLEAU: I don't know. The confidence that you get from winning something like that, being part of it, I think it's huge, and you try to bring it back to your club, your NHL team, maybe try and continue it and maybe pass some of it on.
Q. You made some friends there. They're the enemy tomorrow. What's that like to have shared that and now wanting to beat them?
PATRICK MARLEAU: Yeah, I think it's kind of like what we were doing at the Olympics, too, playing against your own teammates. As soon as that puck drops, you want to win and you want to compete. You're on different teams. So that's the way it is.
DANY HEATLEY: Yeah, if you've been around a few years, you played a lot of different guys, played against a lot of different guys. Hockey is one of those games where everybody respects you're trying to win, do your job. Like he said, once the puck drops, all you're trying to do is win the game.
Q. Patrick, what do you remember about 2004, and how are you a different player from those Western Conference finals back then?
PATRICK MARLEAU: Well, I think the biggest change from them to now is the rule changes, if you can remember those playoffs. They were pretty physical, a lot of hooking, holding.
But I think over the years, now you appreciate how long it does take to get there and how hard it is to get there. You have to take advantage of the opportunity when it presents itself, being this year.
Q. Patty, Joe Thornton up here was pretty loose. You seem pretty loose in the locker room. Is that the mood right now? Do you want to be loose or is there some focus coming in right now, too?
PATRICK MARLEAU: Uhm, I think, you know, having the days off, it's a chance to relax. But definitely things -- we'll start gearing up for tomorrow. You know, I wasn't on the first game last series, but the guys came out hard. It was a big focus to start the series off right with that Game 1. I think we'll talk about that again tomorrow before the game, how we want to come out and get our game going right away.
Q. Patrick, knowing Doug Wilson as well as I do from over the years in Chicago, how important is it for you to be a part of this thing now and to see the way this has developed? Rather than blowing up everything at certain times when everybody was calling for everybody's heads, how important is it when you have a piece like Dany, have appreciation that the organization is showing the faith they've had in the players here?
PATRICK MARLEAU: I think it's huge, obviously, to show the faith in the players, in the core guys, not to blow up a team, absolutely add things they felt were missing, you know, bringing in role players. Obviously, getting a star player like Dany doesn't hurt.
It just shows a lot of faith in the players that they brought in and a lot of confidence in them.
Q. Dany, you have seven and eight over in the other conference, one and two here, lots of stars. The fact that this is the marquee series, is that a good thing for you to have the attention? Does it mean anything to have all this focus put on this series?
DANY HEATLEY: I think everyone wanted to see that. You always want to see 1-2, in my opinion. But, you know, you get down to the final four teams, there's hockey every night. You're gonna be a marquee series no matter what. The focus is going to be on that series a lot in the east as well and us in the west obviously.
That really doesn't change for us. We're just anxious to get going and focus on Chicago.
Q. Your first year here in San Jose, when you got here, playoffs past for this team, this team breaking through this year. Any parallels from your days in Ottawa? That was a team that had a lot of talent. They wouldn't go quite as far as people thought they should. You brought them to the '07 final. Do you see any parallels?
DANY HEATLEY: Obviously every team is different. From the day I got here, you could tell there was a real focus in this room, a real drive to get through the season and get to the playoffs after the last season.
You know, this is a pretty loose room. Yeah, it is here and there, but I've seen this team, when we get to the rink tomorrow, it will be all business. The practices, when we get on this ice, it's business. That's what I've seen from this team all year round.
As far as comparison, I don't know. You need everyone. I think you've seen a lot of guys contribute so far in this run and that's been a real key for us.
Q. Pat, between the time off and the noon start, are you just unsure of what your routine will be between now and then or is it because it's the Conference Finals, doesn't matter, you're ready?
PATRICK MARLEAU: We've had a few afternoon games. You do your normal routine. It's just at different times. You don't really think too much about it. It's game time, so...
Q. Patty, asked McLellan, these guys played in front of 35 million in Canada. Not too much pressure than that. Does it point to you big guys are the ones that have to lead the team in such a huge series?
PATRICK MARLEAU: Like Dany said, there's different people stepping up at different times, and that's what it takes to win. Everybody wants to contribute in certain ways at key times. I think you'll see that again. I think obviously we'd like to do what we're used to doing. Pav's line is going to contribute as well. We have other guys that are going to chip in. But everybody has to play a good role defensively as well. There's a lot of different things away from the puck that we need to do well, that maybe not a lot of people will recognize.