After the bye week is there anything you are looking for from players either mentally of physically to know they are back in the right frame of mind and know they are in the right condition going into the stretch run?
"Well, hopefully what this bye week has done has given them a chance to rejuvenate some energy. Recreation is really a subliminal term for recreating energy. I hope that they did that this week. They had their little tournament game, from what I hear was very competitive and then later on in the week, Thursday, Friday and Saturday they had time to rest. I think we will know today when we get on the ice. I think we will have their energy and attention because they haven't played. We should have three or four real good days of practice here to set us up for the rest of the year."
Could it be said that the playoffs have begun? Is that the message you are going to give to your players this week with what is at stake?
"Essentially these are the beginning of the playoffs. We have had our break and these games set us up for where we finish in the league. The following week we go right into the playoffs. So essentially, the beginning of the playoffs starts right now. If you want to take a look at it, each week represents one round of playoffs until the end of the season. If you want to look at it that way. Essentially, the playoffs start this weekend."
Coach, for those that might say looking at your roster with all of the young guys, where you are at is great, but you are too young, too many freshman to contend for a title for a league title or an NCAA title. What would you say why that might not be true?
"If you take a look at history, a little puppy dog will bite you in the leg as well as an old one. We are young, but we have the ability. Experience is such that sometimes you give the test first and you learn later. But if you're sharp and ready for that test you will pass it just fine. So for those people that say we are not old enough or experienced enough, sometimes being naïve is a good thing. You go in there and you play and you are not worried about the pressure. Sometimes you accomplish some great things. I am certainly not going to be the one to tell our kids they can't do it."
How much has it been your system that has made this club successful and guys buying into that system?
"It is definitely a part. To what percentage, it is tough to say. Coach [Troy] Ward and I talked about the fact in Minnesota that we played an aggressive forecheck system against a very good team on a big sheet of ice in somebody else's building. We found out about our club. They can do this. They can play this way on the road against a very good team and get it done. I think our kids like to play that way. Even this late in the year we are still learning things about our kids."
The immediate thing that people look at this weekend is a battle for third place, considering whoever comes out of this weekend could still move up from that. Being that there is a big reward for third place or above in this league, do you guys talk about that at all? That if you finish third or above you can avoid a Thursday night game at the Final Five?
"I think for young people to focus on that stuff, it is
just too far ahead. I know that the kids know that. I know they look at the
standing board in their room. We don't need to highlight that. Once again, we
need to highlight what do we need to do to get to that point. What are the
day-to-day things that we need to do to accomplish those things? We talked about
the fact that young athletes get jacked, they get emotional and they start
thinking about those things. It is hard to train young minds to be focused and
to have one purpose in mind, that is on the day-to-day stuff. On the next game.
I don't think we need to go there. I think in the big picture, the kids know
what is at stake. Our job is to keep them focused on the next task at hand."