Monday press conference: Mike Eaves

Wisconsin men's hockey coach spoke with the media regarding the Frozen Tundra game at Lambeau Field

Audio file 1 (3:52)

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Mike, can you hearken back to the last time you played outdoors, and have you ever played in a competitive game outdoors?

"Competitive game? Well, I started playing hockey outside in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, and it was a little league. It was pretty competitive then. It was interesting. We used to be able to play outside until it was minus-15, then they wouldn't let us play anymore.

"Playing outside has a uniqueness about it that is hard to relay to people that have never played outside, the sound that the skates make when it cuts the ice, the sound that the puck makes on your stick when you catch a pass and you slap a pass. It's a very unique game of its own.

"And it'll be fun. It brings back, what it does, it takes you back to when the last time you played as a child or whatever you did, and I think that's what will be fun for a lot of the kids that have skated outside, is to revisit that time in your life perhaps when you were younger, you skated outside."

How do you explain the change in success on the penalty kill from the Minnesota series to the UMD series?

"Well, it's a lot of little things. I mean, it's a combination that usually when you talk about your penalty killing, your goaltender is your best penalty killer and then the people in front of him doing their jobs. And we did that against Minnesota, and then Saturday night we didn't do a very good job of it and it was a combination of things.

"On the one goal, Shane let up a rebound. You know, now you could say the forwards or the defensemen didn't block that shot. The bottom line was that they didn't do the things they needed to do to prevent a rebound from laying there and a guy putting it in a wide-open net. On the first power-play goal, it was a matter of we weren't in the right alignment and it was our mistake and it was the people in front of Shane. So it's a combination of things. It usually is."

Mike, you addressed this to a degree last week. Is there a scenario where Brian would play this weekend?

"No. Not at all. Just, I mean, he stayed behind this weekend. And the only way he would play this weekend is if he had practiced last week and was practicing this week. Then we'd be sure where his knee is. But he stayed behind and worked on his knee. And, you know, he's doing well, but not well enough to say that practice him a couple times this week, then throw him in a game on ice that we're not sure of, I don't think that would be very prudent on our part."

Coach, is there a way to simulate this type of environment that you're going to face on Saturday beforehand?

"Absolutely. I don't know how you would simulate it, playing outside. I mean, we're going to skate outside on Friday, roughly about the same amount of time that we'll play on Saturday, so that may help to some degree. But we don't know what the conditions are going to be. We're hearing snow flurries and mid-20's. It's going to be tough.

"I know Mark (Johnson) just walked into the room and he's played in rinks in Europe where they have roofs but no sides, and playing in the middle of a snowstorm and that snow whipping across your face and you go to pass the puck and it's stopped because there's so much snow on the ice. Those are things we may have to deal with. I'm not sure."

Mark Johnson: "I put a layer of ice on my rink this morning, but I don't know if I could fit a whole team on it."

Eaves: (laughing) "We might chew it up a little, Mark."

Audio file 2 (4:55)

Mike, will the players be wearing anything additionally to try to keep them warm? Will you go about the warm-up prior to the game any differently than you have in the past?

"Well, there's some of that underwear that's kind of called Under Armor, you know, that's supposed to keep your body warmth and yet breathe when you sweat. I think the boys will have that on. As far as, they looked at some gloves to wear inside their gloves, and I don't know if guys are going to be wearing head gear or not. It will depend on what the temperature is. I know Rob has looked into a couple different things. So the only thing I know is the underwear will be a little warmer."

Mike, if it is cold where you have to wear all that extra equipment and try and keep warm, are you concerned at all about the distraction that that might cause?

"No. Once you start playing, I mean, you're pretty focused on not getting hit and trying to make things happen out there, that stuff. You may think of it in warmup a little bit, but once you get playing, I remember Mark Howe played with many teams, but he would break in a new pair of skates during the game. Why? Because he didn't have to think about how hurtful they were because he just was thinking about playing. That was his philosophy. And there's a lot of truth to that. Once you start playing, you don't think about anything but getting the job done."

Coach, you had mentioned that Brian Elliott obviously is not going to be back this week. Is there any anticipation to whether he's going to be back for the Michigan Tech weekend or the Minnesota State? Do you have any idea of how many more weeks he's going to be out?

"Well, we're kind of aiming for Michigan Tech. So that's kind of, when this injury was, first happened, that was the timetable, we said three to four weeks, and it probably looks like it'll be the Tech weekend that he'll be back."

Mike, perhaps more importantly with regards to garments, you're not going to be moving a whole lot on the bench. I would think the coaches would be a little more, have a little more discomfort than the players.

"Well, we won't be moving around, that's very true, so we have many, many options that we're looking at right now, and none of which I will get into at this point."

Thirty-five thousand tickets estimated have been sold for this. How much of it do you think is the novelty of an outdoor game and how much of it do you think is where it's being played?

"Boy, that's a tough one to answer. I think that would be a great survey to ask the people as they came in. I don't really know. I think the novelty and where it's at, you could tie those two together. The game, I think, would be third on the list. It's going to be tough for people to see the puck unless they really know the game. So I think just being at Lambeau, being outside would probably be number one and two. The game itself would probably be three."

Distractions were mentioned before. Is this whole week where, you know, guys are going to be looking forward to playing in a place like that and there's going to be, it's a big-ticket event, is that something that you have to worry about maybe getting you guys off task a little bit and then maybe refocus?

"Well, it's funny. We look at it as such that we think it's a good change of pace. I mean, we're in the mix of playing eight straight weekends and this is a little bit of a diversion. I think it will energize the players. We only play one game. We're giving them another day off this week so they can be students and catch up on some school things. So I actually think it's a unique week. We could have this week off totally and they would, you know, get back to just being students and the practices wouldn't be as maybe productive. But I think this will reenergize the kids as we get going after this weekend."

From your experience playing or coaching, have you had an experience where you've been with a team that was rolling along as well as you guys were earlier, hit a bump, but then was able to regain that form? And if so, what was the key to doing that?

"Probably not to the degree that we've hit this bump. But it's pretty self-explanatory in the game of hockey when you lose somebody who's playing as well as they were in this position in this game. Again, if you were to take a look at other sports, they have key positions. Football, you can just think of what if football, if the Pittsburgh Steelers didn't have Roethlisberger in there yesterday, that changes their whole look and scheme.

"So I think it's a matter for us right now is to, not to overanalyze, not to second guess and still believe in ourselves and wait for Brian to get back in there. And then get back that relationship, that feeling that the players had when Brian was in the net. And we'll have three weekends to do that before the playoffs start, so there's time. And I think that's one thing we've been trying to pound, is, hey, let's not overanalyze, let's nobody panic, let's stay on course, batten down the hatches, get through this storm, and get back to the good climbing days that we had before."

Audio file 3 (4:12)

Mike, I guess sticking along with that theme, Brian doesn't seem to be the type of guy who would fall into this trap, but when he does come back, the expectations for him would almost suggest that he'd almost, if he doesn't walk on water, people are going to be disappointed. I mean, if he doesn't immediately pick up where he left off, that there's going to be a problem. Do you, is that a concern with you with this team?

"Knowing Brian the way that we do, I mean, early in the year, you know, we lost that game in overtime on a goal that Brian said ‘I should have had that, I overplayed it.' How did he respond? He came back, he was very good. He's had goals, when we played CC at home, Brett Sterling scored on a bad angle on a five-hole shot. You know, how did he respond? He played very well.

"I think he has the mindset to understand what his job is and keep everything in perspective. That's what history would tell us. This is a little bit different of a situation, coming back off an injury, although he came back off his other injury early in the year and jumped right in there, played back-to-back games right away. So there are indicators that he should do all right when he comes back, but we'll find out together because, you know, we're getting near the end of the season and that's a little different circumstance. But if history repeats itself, we think he'll be fine."

You've played in hostile environments that have been, at Minnesota with sellout crowds. You've played in friendly environments with sellout crowds. How do you think this game in Lambeau will be different, maybe on a grander scale just because of the number of people that are going to be there and the way it's all going to play out?

"The word that came to mind was carnival. It'll be a carnival-like atmosphere. You look around and you see all these people, you know, are they really there for the hockey game or are they just there to kind of look around and see who's there with you and have fun with it. So that'll be interesting. I'll be able to respond better after."

Coach, do you think that your team is playing differently with Shane in goal than they did when Brian was in goal?

"Absolutely. I mean, there's no question about that. When Brian was in net, he created a relationship with the people in front of him, and they played different in front of Brian. They're trying to get to that same type of relationship with Shane. I mean, what kind of goaltender is Shane, where is he comfortable, and then, and it's growing. It's developing.

"But it takes time and going through some wars together, and that's the process that Shane is going through. So there's no question they do. Even though they may say, well, we're trying to play the same, I'm trying to do my job, they knew what they had back there with Brian. They're trying to discover what they have with Shane right now. We're in that process."

Do you get the feeling this might be a little bit of a surreal experience? I mean, the fans are going to be a little bit, a ways away from the rink. You're not going to have that kind of environment where everyone is right on top of you. You're going to just kind of be out there on your own playing and, you know, the fans might be, you know, might not even be, you know, that much of a part of it, kind of like spotlight's right on you guys on the rink.

"It could be surreal. I really don't know what to, how to describe it at this point. These will be great questions after the game when we can sit down and share the experience that we had with each other. I really don't know."

Mike, results aside, how did you feel about the changes you made on your power plays this past weekend?

"Once again, we had chances. You know, we looked at the video over the weekend and we created chances, had some dandy ones. I mean, on Saturday, Reichmuth made some great saves. And we had some rebounds that we missed and they jumped over our stick. So, you know, if you're looking for, you know, your disappointment in your power play comes when you don't create chances. We created chances. We didn't bury them, either because our passes weren't very good or good enough or our shots weren't as good as we needed them to be to beat this young goaltender over the weekend. So, you know, once again, we go back and it's kind of that flow and ebb. We score four and five minutes on CC and we're flying high on the top end of that offensive flow, and then, you know, we've lost it here a little bit. So we'll continue to work at it and fine tune it as we go."

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