Monday Press Conference: Mike Eaves

Hockey coach discusses Denver, Minnesota and injuries

Mike, obviously it changes a little bit with Matt Auffrey out of the mix for now, but your power play has started off the season very well, you know, from game to game, you know, contributing at least one goal. Is there anything you can point to with that as for a reason? I mean, obviously the skilled guys are there, but, you know, getting them together and putting them on the right combinations had to help.

"All the things you talked about are there, Todd. I think, the ability, getting them on the same page, and them taking advantage of it. I don't get excited very much on the bench but Saturday night's power play goal, I pumped my fist in the air. You don't see a finer goal. That's the kind of goal that Bob Johnson used to come in the locker room if we got beat 7 to 1 and the first thing he said, ‘that's the best power play goal I've ever seen in my life, we just got thumped.' That was that type of goal. And after the game we talked about the fact, you know, welcome to the WCHA, but then right away, that was a great goal. That's something you can build on. So it's been a factor for us. And we can get better. There's no reason that we can't get better."

Mike, what do you do then with Auffrey's spot? That's just open competition, I suppose?

"I think, for today, we're going to slide Mr. Heatley in there and that becomes his opportunity to take that ball and run. This is kind of what he's been waiting for and he had a very good week of practice. One of the reasons that we made the changes we did Saturday, because they did have a good week, that group. And so now with Matt being out, Mr. Heatley gets a chance to, you know, he's going to have three or four weeks there to really show what he can do."

Coach, how much do you rely on the older players to work with the younger guys and telling them the difference in playing at home and going on the road in the WCHA and the hostile environment, and how much do you as coaches have to tell them and what do you tell them to get them ready for something like that.

"Well, it's going to come from both avenues. The coaches will address that. But, you know, we're only with the players a brief amount of time in comparison to them being with each other, so I know our leadership corps will take them aside in the locker room and talk about stuff on the road, and they'll get some verbiage. But you have to go through that experience yourself. And as much as they will talk about it, it'll be an eye-opener once we get there, that's for sure."

Mike, where do things stand with Matt Ford right now? Obviously he was looked at last week. Is he close to getting an opportunity to get back in the lineup, or is he still a ways away?

"He's still a ways away. He's still taking baby steps in terms of his skating now. So he's, right now he's still week to week."

And Piskula is basically in the same boat, or is he ahead of schedule at this point?

"He's on schedule for him. I mean, he can go skate now and I think next week he'll be able to handle a stick, but he can work on his legs. So both young men are on schedule but still week to week."

When you look at, there's been discussions about Bernd through this first month, how do you define his, what a lack of rhythm would be? What do you see in him that maybe hasn't been quite right up to this point?

" I don't think that, first of all, we're as worried about Bernd. I think he's going to fine. I really do. I think that if we took a look at the numbers from last year at this time and they're primarily the same, and then he got in that groove. So maybe he's just waiting to get into that. As athletes and as people we go through this flow and ebb. Some days we just feel great and other days we don't. He may be down a little bit, but he's getting ready to come up and get on top of his game again.

"So, you know, as long as he works hard, it's the same with goal-scorers. You go through these slumps, and if you're working hard, you're getting opportunities, you feel like, you know, you're going in the right direction. And then we talked about it after the game Saturday, his performance in the second period when we were in our zone and he was getting peppered, he looked like the Bernd of old and I think that we look at that as an indication that good things are going to happen for him."

You know, after the game on Friday, the players had talked about how they wanted to snap that streak against Denver at home, that they hadn't beaten Denver before. Do you bring that stuff up or is that just the guys know that, hey, we haven't beaten this team here or we haven't won at Minnesota in so long? Do they just know that or is that . . .

"They read the paper and that's where they get that. We don't bring that up as coaches. That's nothing that we can control. We try to stay focused on the things that we can take care of and work from there. But they're in tune. They know. They listen to the radio and they hear and they read the paper, and they know exactly where things stand. But as a coaching staff we don't bring that to the forefront. I don't think we need to really."

From what you've seen so far of Minnesota and on tape, what do you think of this year's team compared to the team that you faced last year? They obviously won . . . last weekend, one that they escaped in overtime and one against Minnesota State.

" I'll be honest with you, my tape time with Minnesota has been limited. That's something that I will get to today. But in talking to people about them and a limited viewing, I know, one of the first comments that comes out of people's mouths is that their defense, as always, really can skate, and they're up in the play all the time.

"The other comment is that their goaltender, Briggs, has been very solid, making the saves he should, and then making two or three that, you know, he really shouldn't, so he's giving them a chance to do the things they're doing. And naturally, I think up front, they'll be very talent, they've got some kids who can score and they've got some players. It's going to, as we said last weekend, we're hitting the big stretch here. Denver, Minnesota, North Dakota are all going to be stiff tests."

Coach, we were talking about Wisconsin and Minnesota for football and their rivalry. What does the rivalry for hockey mean to you as a coach and a former player?

"I think we talk about this every year, just because it is such a great rivalry, but again, as an 18-year-old freshman myself, it was a "Gong Show." I remember going in there as an 18-year-old. I'd never seen anything like it in my life. And it was like ‘who turned the volume up?' And it was a great atmosphere to play at the old Mariucci and our guys look at this, I mean, the guys that have been there, they understand, and we have guys on our team but for young freshmen, they'll probably have a similar comment, like, you know, who turned up the volume when you start playing the Gophers. So, but that's, you know, that's the beauty of sport, it's a test and it shows you where you're at and if you can handle that type of thing. Because ultimately, you know what, when you're playing for a national championship you have to learn to deal with situations like that."

You might want to identify what The "Gong Show" is about for a lot of people …

"Am I dating myself, Andy? Honest to Pete, when we have meetings with our players and we talk about guys that I grew up watching, Dave Key and Bobby Clarke, they have no idea . . . who are you talking about, Coach. So I understand your comment. You do have to qualify a lot of things."

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