Monday press conference: Mike Eaves

Eaves speaks on UND, special teams and Tom Gilbert

Do you have a big night planned for the boys on Friday night in Grand Forks?

"Jeez, I haven't been there in a couple years. I'm not too sure if I know if they've built anything new there for us to do. We'll find out together, Brian."

You go on the road for the final four. You played pretty well on the road at times, would you agree, this season?

"Yes, we have. Yes, we have. I think we have a good mentality for going on the road. We look at it as a great challenge and we kind of relish in that challenge. So since our last four are on the road, that'll be a good mind set for us."

Does the approach to these last four games change in that not only are you on the road for all of them but you have the Saturday-Sunday afternoon and then have to go back on the road again the next week? Does how you prepare in these couple weeks change at all?

" I don't think so. I think we go back and we keep working on the things that we can control. I mean, right now one of the things that we need to kind of get ourselves out of is our ability to get some goals on our power play. If there's one thing that's been lacking in these last couple of games it's our inability to do that.

"We scored a power play goal Friday, which was a set play, which was, it was one of those moments as a coach you were pleased because the players recognized where the face-off was, that it was a set play, they called it out, they executed it. It was the first time that we had done that all year. So that was a good thing.

"But above and beyond that, we fumbled and bumbled the puck and didn't take what was given. So we're in a little bit of a lull right now with that. We have been as high as 24 percent. Now we're about 21 percent. So we've got to get back to some basics on that and have the boys have some success in practice, move the puck around, remind them that they can do these things. They've done it before, and we have to get back to those and make them feel good about that and get that darn thing going."

Mike, where are you going with your lines this week? Do you keep (Ryan) MacMurchy and (Nick) Licari and (Andrew) Joudrey together, or do you . . .

"To be real honest with you, Andy, if you went upstairs and looked at our board right now, we've got about seven different combinations. So between right this moment now and on Wednesday, because today's just going to be an individual day, just kind of sweat, handle the puck, individual skills, tomorrow's a day off, and then we'll come back on Wednesday. By Wednesday we'll have a, we'll sleep on some of these combinations and see where we're at."

I won't ask you who you think your MVP is right now. But a guy who maybe a lot of people wouldn't look at but you might see him, certainly have him on your sheet, is Tom Gilbert, just because of the responsibilities that he's had this year. He's, with a young defense, he's had, I think he's had just about everybody as a partner, and the way that he's performed within that context of raising a bunch of young freshmen, that he's really kind of, has he exceeded your expectations in that sense, the way he's handled everything?

"It's tough to talk about MVPs at this point or even at any point because it's such a team game, but eventually we do it. It kind of reminds me of the Westminster Dog Show. You know, you're going to have a best of show here, is what you're really asking, because you've got your goaltender, your forwards, and your defense, and, you know, who's the best in each one of those groups and then who's the best in show. Because without somebody stepping up to the plate in each of those, you know, we wouldn't have the success we've had to this point. But Tommy would definitely be in his category the winner, and then you've got to figure out who is the MVP of the team."

Mike, you hear during the Stanley Cup playoffs, when they actually play pro hockey, that it's critical to win a cup of special teams and the power play. Does that heighten the problem, the issue right now with the power play for you, because it is sort of your playoff run has started right now?

"Well, I guess I'd much rather have it happen now, Rob, than when we're actually in the playoffs, because now we can kind of, we're in a lull. There's no question about it. We're in an offensive lull in terms of our power play. So, you know, and let's work through it now so that when we do come to the playoffs hopefully we'll be on an upswing and things will be clicking for us.

"Because, you know, three weeks ago when things were clicking, you know, it's the same group. We're trying to do the same things. It's just their ability to handle the puck and make those, at the moments of truth make the right plays. So I'd rather be going through it now than in a couple weeks when we're right in the playoffs. We'll get out of it."

Getting back to Tom Gilbert and wondering if he's in the toy group or in the sporting group.

"He'd be a sporting group, yes."

He would be the sporting group. How difficult is it to change partners with him and within the context that you have, especially with young guys? He's had (Davis) Drewiske. He's had this last time obviously Jeff Likens. But is he taking on a lot of responsibility, or am I reading too much into it?

"No, no, no. He has. And what it is, it is an extra added burden because there's a feeling of comfortableness when you play with the same guy. You intuitively know that he's going to be in a certain spot when you have the puck. And when you play with different people you don't have that. That intuitiveness is gone. So Tommy, he has had to handle that.

"And I think since he's been given that responsibility, quite honestly I think he's stepped up his game. I think when he realized he had to play with more than one partner and oftentimes it was a freshman that he had to step it up. I think it's made him a better player, to be quite honest with you, Andy."

It seems Brady Murray's back and playing for North Dakota, but they've been struggling to score it appears too. Their defense is pretty good though. Is that correct, from what you've . . .

"Yeah, in watching their games, we were able to watch some of the DU-North Dakota game, and, quite frankly, the difference in that series believe it or not was the power play. Both games were 4-2 and it was a power play that won games. They continue to play well with the puck, a physical team, pressure team. They're not going to give you a lot offensively. So it's interesting that we're dealing with an area that we're going to have to have working for us in order, I think, for us to be successful up there."

As someone who's played and coached up there at the Ralph (Ralph Engelstad Arena), how different is the atmosphere in the new building that they play in to bring a team into as opposed to going to the Ralph?

"Well, it's a big-time building. It's definitely a National Hockey League building. The people there really get into the game. I remember the ice being somewhat indifferent though. I don't remember it being great ice. I remember it getting snowy from the 10-minute mark on, which I guess that's just something you have to deal with. But in terms of, you know, you can't help but walk into that building and go wow.

"The thing that I remember about it is that if you have a chance to walk around it, the history of the college hockey game is up on the walls. They've done a great job with the pictures and giving you a sense of what college hockey was all about in the cold days, when they used to play in a rink, this is the God's honest truth, that the puck used to hit the goalpost and it would break. This spare goaltender didn't wear his equipment. He was in his parka and overcoat and stuff. So you get a sense of what old-time hockey was all about when you go to that rink. For that reason alone it's special."

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