Hangin’ With Thomas Vanek…

Hangin’ With Thomas Vanek by Dan Rice

Recently I was able to obstruct Buffalo Sabres forward Thomas Vanek long enough to ask him about a few things off of the ice — like how big of a star he is back in Austria and his memories from his college days at the University of Minnesota. Vanek (6’2”, 205 lbs.) is a 26-year-old from Vienna, Austria, who was drafted fifth overall in the 2003 NHL Draft by Buffalo. He is arguably the most talented player to make it to the NHL from Austria, and he was able to refine his skills here in North America while playing college hockey for the Golden Gophers from 2002-2004. Vanek became the first European to ever play hockey for Minnesota and he didn’t disappoint by scoring 113 points (57g-56a) in his two collegiate seasons, while helping lead the Gophers to the 2003 NCAA title — he was also named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player.

During the NHL lockout of 2004-05, he continued to develop his game in the AHL with Buffalo’s affiliate in Rochester (68 points, 42 goals), and by the time the work stoppage was over, he was certainly NHL-ready. His rookie season he appeared in 81 games and accumulated 48 points (25g-23a) and by the following season he really became a player worth watching. Vanek netted 84 points in 82 games (43g-41a) and was a plus-47 during the 2006-07 season.

To date, his career his still blossoming, despite his slow start this season. In 404 NHL games he has amassed 320 points (176g-144a) and is Buffalo’s most lethal sniper on a nightly basis; he averages about 215 shots per season since he has been in the league and has led the Sabres in goals for four consecutive seasons. For more who Thomas Vanek is, read on:

Dan Rice: Describe what your experience was like at the University of Minnesota

Thomas Vanek: “It was great; I love college hockey. It matured me off the ice a lot, especially as a person because you don’t play as many games (as we do in the NHL). We had terrific facilities there and it is a great school. It was a great two years. I had some good memories there; we won the National Championship with Minnesota.”

DR: What do you remember about your draft day?

TV: “It was exciting; obviously I was hoping to be chosen in the first round. It didn’t really matter though; my dream was to play in the NHL. Once Buffalo selected me, that was it, I was in. I was happy to be a Sabre.”

DR: Do you remember your first NHL goal?

TV: “It took a while, 15 games into my rookie year, it was against Carolina.”

Vanek scored his first (and second) NHL goal(s) against Carolina on November 9, 2005 against Hurricanes goaltender Martin Gerber in a 5-3 Buffalo loss.

DR: How popular are you in your native Austria?

TV: “It’s grown. With my development and sticking here (in the NHL) year after year, I think it has opened some eyes back home. It’s nice, but for myself I don’t really care about it too much; for hockey back home, it’s great. I try to do as much as I can to help out any young guys that come over here. We are seeing more and more guys coming here and that’s great.”

DR: Who would you say is your best friend in the NHL?

TV: “Tough to say; I’m pretty good friends with most of the Minnesota guys around the league like Paul Martin, Alex Goligoski, Jordan Leopold, Phil Kessel, Keith Ballard and Blake Wheeler. We’re all pretty close and we all work out together in the offseason. We all come back in the summer and hang out, work out, it’s fun.”

DR: Are you a big fan of soccer and do you play at all?

TV: “Yeah I am still a big fan of the sport. I don’t play too much anymore; I don’t really have time for that. Growing up I played a lot, but I still follow it very closely.”

DR: What do you usually bring with you on a road trip?

TV: “It usually depends on how long of a trip it is; typically just my computer, iPod and my phone.”

To learn more about Thomas Vanek you can check out his website: http://www.thomasvanek.at/index.php?id=2&L=1 or visit sabres.nhl.com. Hope you enjoyed his story and if there is a player you would like to see interviewed in the future please let me know.

Dan Rice can be reached at drdiablo321@yahoo.com.

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Waiting For Kovalchuk…

A lot has happened since Ilya Kovalchuk (642 points in 621 NHL games) became the most talented free-agent in NHL history to hit the open market on July 1, but here we sit on July 18 and the Russian sniper (338 career goals) still hasn’t found a new home. New Jersey, which acquired him in a trade last season is still in the mix, and so are the in, out, in, out, in the Kovy-sweepstakes LA Kings. A third option could be the Russian KHL League, but a talented player in his prime like Kovalchuk needs to play in the league with the most talent and best competition — the NHL.

There are still very valuable players on the market besides Kovalchuk and it seems that the are all waiting for him to sign, before they decide where to go or maybe the other GMs are waiting to see where he lands — making for a very boring two weeks in July devoid of any substantial hockey news.  So, here’s what I am thinking about as we wait for Kovalchuk’s ‘decision’ to be made:

-The NY Islanders have made some solid, off the radar moves to shore up their blue line (Mark Eaton & Milan Jurcina), but more work needs to be done if they are to contend for a playoff spot out of the ultra-competitive Atlantic Division. They should look to sign Alexei Ponikarovsky to play in the top-six and bring back two former Islanders to add more grit to their game — Andy Sutton & Raffi Torres. Sutton has said he would welcome a return to the Island and Torres would be a perfect fit on the third line alongside either Frans Nielsen or Doug Weight.

-What in the freaking world is going on in Calgary?!? They signed two ex-Flames, who both had less than stellar tenures the first time around. Alex Tanguay is a shell of the player he was in 2001 with Colorado and Olli Jokinen was traded away for Ales Kotalik and his ridiculous contract and then they re-sign Jokinen who never looked comfortable in Calgary alongside Jarome Iginla. A few days later ex-Tampa GM Jay Feaster as assistant to the GM who will be probably soon be fired in Darryl Sutter.

-There are still two solid goalies available — one via free agency (Marty Turco) and one via trade (Tim Thomas). It’s not every day you have these types of quality goalies available, so stop being cheap and give your team a decent chance to succeed next year (this means you Columbus, Toronto, Atlanta, Florida, Tampa, Montreal, Minnesota, LA, San Jose, Dallas).

-There are two enigmatic, but talented wingers available in Max Afinogenov and Alex Frolov and i haven’t heard peep about either yet. It’s possible that one of these two could wind up in the KHL, but in the right situation they can still be solid NHLers.

-Two talented centers are available for trade, but both have almost unmovable  contracts — Boston’s Marc Savard and Ottawa’s Jason Spezza. Hey, maybe they should just be traded for each other?

-It seemed odd to me that: Pittsburgh signed defenseman Paul Martin from New Jersey, New Jersey signed Anton Volchenkov from Ottawa and Ottawa signed Sergei Gonchar from Pittsburgh. This is just my opinion but, a three-way trade during the season would have been soooooo much cooler!

-If the Devils don’t sign Kovalchuk, they should take a hard look at Miroslav Satan, and not just because of the name. Miro proved in the playoffs that he can still produce and help a winning team go deep into the spring.

-Four solid long-time NHL vets are still on the market. Would Mike Modano, Paul Kariya, Teemu Selanne & Bill Guerin have lasted this long on the open market ten summers ago in 2000? I think not. Modano may go to Detroit, which makes sense in a lot of ways. What if Kariya and Selanne sign one-year deals in Pittsburgh like they did in Colorado? Apparently Sidney Crosby felt he didn’t need Guerin’s leadership, so maybe Guerin could ride shotgun with AO in DC?

-Finally where in the world is Petr Sykora? The rest of your buddies from 2000 are in NJ…..A-LINE, ASSEMBLE!!!!

Should He Stay or Should He Go…

It’s been almost two weeks since the New Jersey Devils 2009-10 season came to a crashing halt at the hands of the Philadelphia Flyers. Three days after their elimination, coach Jacques Lemaire announced his retirement forcing the team to search for it’s sixth head coach in six seasons since the lockout ended. Three consecutive first round exits, haven’t made it past the second round since winning the 2003 Stanley Cup.

After having time to digest all of this I’ve come up with some suggestions on how to improve the team and hopefully help them (at least) make it out of the opening round of the playoffs. All salaries I used are courtesy of nhlnumbers.com.

Coach: Hire Mike Keenan. The ex-Ranger coach, (more recently ex-Calgary) would seem like an odd choice at first glance, but he knows how to win and he could work well together with another crafty mind like GM Lou Lamoriello. His first task will be convincing Brodeur to play less games, oh and his career total of 672 wins is good for 4th all-time.

Trade: Jamie Langenbrunner, Mark Fraser (and/or) Andy Greene to Toronto for Tomas Kaberle. Perhaps Lamoriello can convince Leafs GM Brian Burke that he can use a Langenbrunner to lead his young team in 2010-11 as he led Burke’s Team USA to a silver medal. Kaberle has one year left on his current deal at $4.25 mil, so to make it fair salary-wise Lamoriello may have to surrender both Greene and Fraser; Langenbrunner is due $2.8 mil and will also be going into the last year of his contract. Perhaps Kaberle will waive his no-trade clause to skate with fellow Czech Patrik Elias.

Trade: Before the draft call your old trading partner Don Waddell from Atlanta and offer him RFA David Clarkson ($875,000) for soon-to-be UFA Colby Armstrong ($2.4 mil). Maybe he still wasn’t 100% from the leg injury, but Clarkson was invisible versus the Flyers; Armstrong will be a player that plays hard every shift and in front of the opposing goalie he will be a pain in the @$$, something Clarkson has failed to do in each of the last two postseasons. See if Waddell has any interest or room for Jay Pandolfo also, who could help stabilize a young squad.

Free Agency: Let Paul Martin, Mike Mottau, Rob Niedermayer, Rod Pelley and Martin Skoula walk away. Changes have to be made and most of these players were very serviceable, the ultimate results just weren’t there.

Do whatever you have to do to re-sign Ilya Kovalchuk. Quick name another first overall pick that has played for the Devils. Stumped, well as far as I know there is only one other– Bobby Carpenter — and he wasn’t nearly as dynamic as Kovalchuk is. Hopefully Ilya sticks around, but who am I kidding, there’s no way he’ll stay in New Jersey right?

Sign Free Agents : Tomas Plekanec, Marek Svatos and either Andy Sutton or Anton Volchenkov. Plekanec is the center that the Devils have been lacking since Scott Gomez took the money and ran to Manhattan, leaving Travis Zajac as the team’s only legitimate scoring center. Svatos is a talented, scrappy, underachieving winger from Colorado who could fit in on a solid third/fourth line. Either Sutton or Volchenkov won’t come cheap, but they are both worth the money that will be spent on them. They both block shots well, get in shooting lanes and aren’t afraid to get into scrums to protect the front of their crease — a huge lacking element in NJ the last three playoff failures. Both players also have the same downside too — they are both injury prone, so teams may end up being hesitant to throw major cash around.

There’s a saying ‘scared money makes no money’ so I say the Devils need to revamp the current edition to make it look something like this:

Line A: Ilya Kovalchuk-Tomas Plekanec-Patrik Elias
Line B: Zach Parise-Travis Zajac-Dainius Zubrus
Line C: Brian Rolston-Colby Armstrong-Marek Svatos
Line D: Pierre-Luc Leblond-Tim Sestito/Dean McAmmond-Vladimir Zharkov

D-pair 1: Tomas Kaberle-Anton Volchenkov/Andy Sutton
D-pair 2: Matthew Corrente-Bryce Salvador
D-pair 3: Colin White-Anssi Salmela/Tyler Eckford

Goalies: Martin Brodeur, Yann Danis

I know I’ve made some crazy suggestions here, and I have no doubt that I’ll probably be 0.00% right, but hopefully some changes are made so I’m not sitting home watching less-superior teams battle for a chance to get steamrolled next season. Let me know how insane this all sounded, Thanx.

Dan

Game 3/Game 4 …

Here’s how I saw Game 3 of the New Jersey Devils-Philadelphia Flyers series and what I expect for Game 4 on Tuesday night:

Game 3:
-Devils winger Ilya Kovalchuk had two assists, but no shots on goal (!) & led the team in ice-time with 27:30.
-New Jersey sat defenseman Martin Skoula (who had a shaky 1st 2 games) in favor of rookie Mark Fraser and the move didn’t work; Fraser was responsible for Philly’s second goal when he allowed Simon Gagne to muscle him off the puck behind the net. Coach Jacques Lemaire said after the game that Skoula will return to the lineup in Game 4.
-With the loss, the Devils are now 0-4 in the Wachovia Center this season and Martin Brodeur hasn’t won a game there since January 22, 2008.
-With the loss coming in overtime, Brodeur’s career record is 12-21 in playoff overtime; the most OT losses in NHL history.
-Flyers captain Mike Richards has six points (2g,4a) in three games; Devils captain Jamie Langenbrunner has only one assist in the first three games. Just saying maybe Jamie should have played that night in Carolina, because he hasn’t been the same since.
-Philly’s duo of Daniel Briere and Jeff Carter have fired a combined 19 shots on Brodeur over the first three games and have a total of 0 points in the series.
-Game 3 Hero: Dan Carcillo, right place +right time = OT winner
-Game 3 Goat: David Clarkson, no matter how lame the penalty was, it never should have happened; ESPECIALLY IN OVERTIME!
-Devils wasted a solid performance by Brodeur (31 saves), but they can tie the series with a win Tuesday night.

Game 4
-Expect better games from Patrik Elias and Zach Parise, who weren’t really a factor in Game 3 where New Jersey only mustered 19 shots on goal; they both responded with great Game 2’s after sub-par Game 1’s.
-Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger will lead his team in ice-time and will probably get at least one point.
-Look for Devils defenseman Paul Martin and Philly winger Scott Hartnell to have an impact in Game 4, Martin will assist on the game-winning goal.

Pronger & Flyers Take Game 1 from Devils

Here is my recap of the Devils 2-1 Game 1 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday night:

Pronger & Flyers Take Game 1 from Devils

Philadelphia 2               Devils 1

The Philadelphia Flyers won Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal 2-1 over the New Jersey Devils on Wednesday night at the Prudential Center, thanks in large part to the only player on their roster with a Stanley Cup ring — Chris Pronger. The veteran defenseman played a large role in his team’s series opening win, scoring the first goal of the game (via the power play) and he was on the ice for literally half of the game — 30:01. The Devils had some chances to score sporadically throughout the game, but they never sustained any pressure, particularly on the power play, thanks in large part to Pronger and friends.

New Jersey held Philadelphia to just 14 shots on net, but that was all they needed to take the home-ice advantage away from their rivals. “We have to be better on the PP obviously,” Devils captain Jamie Langenbrunner said afterwards. “We controlled the five-on-five play for the most part and we did a pretty good job limiting their chances; our power play just didn’t score a goal.”

“I think we played a pretty good game,” Devils coach Jacques Lemaire said. “We had some chances that, the puck didn’t go in. We limited them to a certain number of chances, which, that’s what we were looking for.” Both teams squandered first period power plays as the game remained scoreless heading into the decisive second period. Flyers’ winger Simon Gagne snapped a sharp angle shot that Martin Brodeur initially saved, but Pronger slid the puck into the net from just outside the crease at 9:25 to give Philly a 1-0 lead.

A short time later the Devils best scoring chance of the game came when Ilya Kovalchuk brought the crowd to its feet with an amazing rush up ice that saw him slice through four Flyers like a hot knife through butter — before Brian Boucher eventually stifled his wrist shot and made the fans sit back down with a nice save. “He had numerous chances tonight but couldn’t get a goal,” Lemaire said of Kovalchuk.

Philadelphia’s captain Mike Richards doubled the lead when he converted a nifty spin-o-rama pass from Ian Laperierre and blasted a shot past Brodeur at 16:27. “It hit the top of my pad (over my toe) and it went in,” said Brodeur, “it hit the underside of the crossbar and came back out.” Laperierre knew he took a big risk with his dazzling pass, but was happy with the result. “I looked over my shoulder and I saw Richie there; I told him on the bench if I missed that pass I don’t think I’ll see the ice again,” explained Laperierre, “but you take chances and it worked.”

New Jersey was given multiple opportunities to climb back into the contest during the third period, as the Flyers took two penalties — including a high-sticking double minor. “We didn’t generate much on the power play at all; we did a good job of entering the zone, but after that they did a good job of keeping us to the outside. We didn’t get enough shots,” Langenbrunner said.

But the penalty killers were outstanding for coach Peter Laviolette’s squad and eventually killed off all five Devil power plays in the game. “The PK, we had some big kills in the third period, obviously the double-minor, not the way you want to start the period when you’re up 2-0 and having to kill off four minutes of the first five minutes,” said the Flyers coach. “I thought the penalty killers did a real good job.”

Finally, with 2:43 left in the game Travis Zajac gave the home crowd something to cheer about when his long shot slipped past Boucher, thanks to a double screen of the goaltender by Zach Parise and Dainius Zubrus. “We were looking for a goal earlier than when we got ours,” said Lemairthat would’ve helped.

The Flyers held on, despite having only two shots on goal during the final twenty minutes, as Pronger and Boucher were as strong as they were all game long during the last 163 seconds. “I felt pretty calm,” said Boucher afterwards, “for me, there’s nothing to lose.” Kovalchuk may have been frustrated in his first playoff game with the Devils, but he didn’t sound like it after the game. “It takes four games to win a series,” said Kovalchuk, “they got the first one and we have to find a way to fight through them.”

Game Notes: The Devils looked out-of-sync from the opening face-off and had numerous sloppy line changes throughout the evening. Philadelphia is now 29-32 all-time in Game 1’s, New Jersey is 19-10. Defenseman Paul Martin led the Devils in ice-time with 24:46; Flyers blueliner Matt Carle led all players with four blocked shots. Parise led all players with five shots on goal; Laperierre and Carle led all players with four hits apiece. Game 2 will be Friday night at 7:30pm at Prudential Center.

Game 1 Hero: Chris Pronger

Game 1 Goat: Devils Power Play

Dan’s Three Stars of the Game:

#1 – Brian Boucher (Phil) – 23 saves, win (1-0)

#2 – Chris Pronger (Phil) – pp goal (1)

#3 – Mike Richards (Phil) – gw goal (1), assist (1)

Dan Rice covers the New Jersey Devils & NHL for NYCSportsnetwork.com, & contributes to IslesNation.com. He can be reached at drdiablo321@yahoo.com.

Devils-Flyers Preview

The New Jersey Devils will square off against their division-rivals the Philadelphia Flyers in the opening round of the Stanley Cup playoffs beginning on Wednesday night at Prudential Center. The two teams have met three prior times in the postseason: New Jersey beat Philadelphia in the 1995 (six games) and 2000 Eastern Conference Finals (seven games) and the Flyers bested the Devils in five games in 2004’s opening round.

This past season, Philly dominated the Devils during the six-game season series with a 5-1 edge (outscoring them 20-13), but struggled to make the postseason — qualifying on the season’s final day. “For us it means nothing, for them it means everything; that’s the way you look at those things,” said New Jersey captain Jamie Langenbrunner of the one-sided season series. “They obviously had our number during the regular season, they did things that took us off our game — we’re going to have to address that, we’re going to have to understand the way they play and play accordingly.

Offense: Both teams are filled with goal-scorers who can get hot and carry their teams to a series win. New Jersey’s top two lines will contain any combination of Zach Parise, Travis Zajac, Langenbrunner, Patrik Elias, Ilya Kovalchuk and Dainius Zubrus, while Philadelphia will roll out the likes of Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, Danny Briere, Scott Hartnell, Simon Gagne and Claude Giroux. Both teams also have valuable grinders who could turn out to be the unsung heroes in this series – look for David Clarkson (Devils) and Ian Laperierre (Flyers) to both have an impact at some point during the series.

Edge: Even. As I stated, both teams have some serious firepower when clicking on all cylinders so it will be interesting to see which team (if any) struggles to find their goal scoring touch.

Defense: The Devils have played with a so-called ‘no-name’ defense corps since Brian Rafalski departed for Detroit, but this season they allowed the fewest goals in the entire NHL (191) and they did while their best defenseman (Paul Martin) missed 59 games. The Flyers have a collection of nasty blueliners (Chris Pronger, Braydon Coburn) and talented (Kimmo Timonen, Matt Carle) that are all tough to play against. “It’s going to be tough, it doesn’t matter who you play; it’s going to be a tough series,” said Clarkson after learning his Devils would tangle with the Flyers. “A team like that, you know you’re going into war and that’s what we’re going to do in here. We’re going to play team hockey, play great defensively and give everything we have every night.”

The biggest questions facing each squad will be what kind of impact will Andy Greene and Martin Skoula have for New Jersey and will Pronger be able to stay out of the penalty box for the Flyers.

Edge: Philly. Even if the Devils survive this round, chances are that Parise, Kovalchuk and Elias may be worn down from having to deal with Pronger for possibly seven games.

Goaltending: Martin Brodeur and Brian Boucher last met in the playoffs in 2000 when the Devils rallied from a 3-1 series deficit to beat Boucher and the Flyers at Philadelphia in Game 7. Since then Brodeur has appeared in 92 playoff contests and Boucher has only been in four. Brodeur comes into the series maybe as hot as he’s ever been to close a regular season — surrendering only seven goals over seven games, including back-to-back shutouts. Boucher (4-6-1 in last eleven starts) is basically the only goalie left standing in Philly’s crease after injuries to Ray Emery and Michael Leighton, so if he goes down the Flyers will be in deep trouble.

Edge: New Jersey. Brodeur is hot and Boucher, despite winning two of the final three games, is not.

Intangibles: The Flyers come into the series with the NHL’s third best power play (21.5%) and their penalty killers ranked 11th (83.0%). The Devils finished 11th on the PP (18.7%) and the least-penalized team in the league finished 13th on the PK (82.8%). Both coaches — Jacques Lemaire (1995 with NJ) and Peter Laviolette (2006 with Carolina) — have won a Stanley Cup, so they both know what it is going to take to guide their teams to the where they want to be. New Jersey has more experience as far as rings go, but Philadelphia has had more recent success during the postseason.

Edge: Even. The specialty teams will be a wash, but if the Flyers take reckless penalties (as they are known to do) the Devils will have to capitalize to take control of the series.

Prediction: New Jersey in 6. This will be a hard-hitting, nasty series that will leave many players on both sides battered and bruised. “It’s going to be very intense games. I know it’s a big rivalry and the rivalry is going to continue,” said Kovalchuk. I believe Brodeur will steal a game (for the first time since ‘03) in Philly and avoid sending the series back to the Rock for a Game 7.

Dan Rice covers the New Jersey Devils & NHL for NYCSportsnetwork.com. He can be reached at drdiablo321@yahoo.com.

Devils-Blue Jackets Postgame Quotes [03.23.10]

Here are some of the postgame quotes after the Devils 6-3 win over the Blue Jackets Tuesday night:

Paul Martin:

Thoughts on the win…

“It was a good win, it was needed. We did a good job early, taking them out of the game; not giving them too much. We were able to get some goals on the power play early and that helped.”
The team got three PP goals tonight; will that shut up some questions for a few days?

“We hope so, but probably not (smiles), you never know. It helps definitely, to get a good day out of the PP. Now the thing will be for us to keep it going.”

Describing his goal…

“It was a great play by Patty (Elias); he shot and Jamie (Langenbrunner) was in front screening and did a good job, the puck came right to me. I just had to make sure I hit the net.”

Is it fun playing with Kovalchuk, especially on the PP?

“Definitely; it makes everything difficult for the defenders to line up on him. It also gives the rest of us more time and space, which is good.”

Are you glad you don’t have to play against him anymore?

“Yeah, I always used to be on his side too; he’s got a shot that’s not too much fun to get in front of. It’s good to have him on our side instead.”


Martin Brodeur:

Was it nice to have six-goal support tonight?

“Yeah, you just take it the way it goes; every game presents different challenges. Today we played well.”

You won your 40th game of the season tonight, despite giving up three goals…

“I don’t care (how many I give up). It’s been nice at home lately; we had a little hiccup against St. Louis, but we’ve been scoring a lot of goals and we have to feel happy about that.”

Is it nice to get back to the 40-win plateau after missing it last year (because of injury)?

“Last year if I would’ve played more I would’ve got it hopefully, but it’s always nice to hit it and get it over with. A lot of people are talking about it because it’s my own record that I’m breaking (adding to), it’s not somebody else’s (laughs). It’s still an accomplishment, trying to raise the bar for the next one coming, that’s for sure.”

You’re getting closer to 600 wins…

“What is it two more? Three more? Well, I thought about; there’s lots of games left to be able to do it, hopefully and eventually it will happen.”

What did you see on the first goal, Antoine Vermette’s one-timer from the blueline?

“It was a one-timer that was really hard. He skated from his own zone with his stick cocked in the air for a long time and just overpowered me on that one.”

Nice to see your team put in three PP goals tonight?

“Yeah, they weren’t all pretty but I think we got ourselves in a situation to be able to be successful; and that’s the bottom line. When you play well you draw penalties, you get your chances on the PP and that’s what we did. It’s a good sign because you need the PP to do well, but you need to get them also. We did enough today to be able to do something with it.”

Ilya Kovalchuk:

Do you feel like you played better (tonight) because of less anxiety in your personal life?

“You can find any excuses when things don’t go your way. It’s normal, you’re not a robot; like I said a lot of times, if you work hard you can turn it around and you never have to give up. The guys in the room support me, nobody is pointing fingers or anything; we lost two games (in a row) and it was a tough stretch for us. Tonight was a game we can build off of.”

Did you get the puck for your new son?

“No, I don’t think he’ll be upset yet (smiles).”

Talking about his goal…

“I think (Mike) Mottau made a great play at the blueline, very patient; he made a great pass to Zach. We were kind of two-on-one, he gave me the puck and I decided to shoot; so it went in.”


Zach Parise:

Was it nice to see the PP come alive tonight?

“It was great, especially to get one on that first PP; I think we ended up getting three but even the ones we didn’t score on we had great movement and I think the big difference we weren’t standing still — everyone was making good plays. We were a little bit more relaxed on it.”

You made your second goal look really, really easy…

“(chuckles) It was a good play by Jamie and I was just trying to get the goalie to lean the other way; I tried to get him to think I was going to go to my backhand. I ended up getting it over his shoulder — a lot of things kind of went right on that one.”

Is that just an instinct play or have you tried something like that before?

“I guess it’s just more reaction than anything, we don’t really practice those types of things.”

Do you think your first goal let the team relax a bit on the PP?

“Maybe; anytime you can get one right away on the PP it’s a good sign. When you get that second PP, you’re excited about it; as opposed to not getting anything generated and being a little more nervous, a little more tentative on the PP. When you get one early, it’s a good feeling.”

Jacques Lemaire:

How do you explain the six goals after not scoring on Saturday?

“We got some breaks. I mentioned last game that we have to work harder and get more support on the ice. I think they did that tonight. We had guys going to the net. You look at Travis (Zajac) as an example, he had two goals but didn’t get a shot at the net; he scored two goals. That means you are going to the net, the puck hits you, and goes in. We had a lot of guys play like this and it paid off.”

You separated Travis and Zach and they each had two goals tonight…

“If you look at Patrik as an example, I switched the two centers. Patrik played hard; I think his best game since he’s been back (from his concussion). He moved the puck well, skated, went at the net, played in traffic. He did a lot of good things.”

How good was Kovalchuk?

“Kovy was good, I’m happy, probably one of his best games. He’s a guy that has to score to feel better and I think it’s just the beginning with him.”