Monday press conference: Mike Eaves

Men's hockey coach discussed his team's return from a long layoff and its health

Mike, in the meetings you had with the players, the one-on-one meetings before they left for break, what did you stress to them that you wanted them to do in break to be able to come back and be in the right frame of mind and also be in physical condition? Two separate things, I know, but what could they have done to get there?

"Well, they had a program in their hand that Michael [Potenza] wanted them to carry out, but I know realistically that's sometimes difficult to do because of facilities or ice, so I think we have to be realistic in that. Going nine straight weeks, the biggest thing is that they get time away from each other, time away from the coaching staff.

"And the hard part for us right now is going to be, it's like when you play a really good period of hockey, your first period, you've done really well and now you have a break, and you go in between periods, you sit down, you relax, you towel, you get some water. Now you've got to go back out there and you've got to try to get the momentum back again. That's our immediate task, is that we have to kind of set the tone that that's what we're looking at right now. And beginning this week we're going to have to sit down as coaches and our captains are going to have to set the tone of what's expected this week, the type of week that we need to have to get ourselves back that momentum. That's our biggest task right now as we see it."

Without Jake Dowell and Jeff Likens [who are playing in the World Junior Championships] just can you talk about how you suspect that will affect the team this week and maybe who that creates an opportunity for?

"Well, I think that it creates definitely for Mr. Engel a huge opportunity for him to jump in the lineup as a defenseman. Josh had a bad set of circumstances. He was going to play earlier in the year and on his way home from the pre-game meal he hit a squirrel with his scooter and fell off and broke his wrist. And, you know, why did that happen to him then. He's been waiting a long time to get this chance. So he'll be able to have that opportunity now in these next two games to show the coaching staff and his teammates what he can do.

"And I think that guys like Mr. Auffrey will get back in there. Peter Talafous may have a chance to play here in this week coming up. So we look at it as we've got two weeks of practice and two games before we get back to the WCHA, so that's the way we're kind of looking at this, getting that momentum back. And these two weeks of practice for a lot of our guys are really important because there's, once again there's competition for positions. And as we try to relate to our young people, practice does count, because we don't play as much as professionals, so we have to evaluate them in practice. And you have to treat practices like games because that's often times the only thing we have to rate you on."

Mike, is everyone back, everyone healthy, to your knowledge?

"The only one that's not healthy at this time is Mr. Burish. He, actually he spent Christmas in the hospital. His elbow flared up. It was just kind of an innocent-looking thing, but he's doing well now and should be getting out here pretty, maybe even today. But he'll be a question mark for this weekend just because we don't know where his strength is going to lie. But he's going to be fine."

That would obviously change or impact what you're doing at center then, you know, with him possibly moving back to center to fill Jake's spot. That's where you get some of that competition, right up the middle, for those spots there this week?

"Yeah. You know, with, we're probably looking, we were looking at putting Adam there, and now we'll have to take a look at some other possibilities. Perhaps Peter goes there, or Kenny Rowe. But we'll see how young Adam is with his strength and that'll be a determining factor as well."

To confirm, Mark Heatley's also out, correct?

"Yeah, that is correct. Yeah, Mark's, we're just waiting on, he's got some issues with his knee, and so we're waiting for confirmation when they're going to do that."

Okay. So he has not had surgery.

"No, not this time."

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