On what he’d like to see in terms of the atmosphere and environment in tomorrow’s game:
I’m curious about all of it. We don’t quite know what to expect. It’s the first time the game’s coming here, but I’ll always believe that hockey is a game that you need to see live, and once you see it live, you become hooked as a fan, and then you’ll watch it live and you’ll watch it on TV, but I think once you get people to a game and they see the speed of the game and they see the skill of the players and they see the physicality, I think it’s the greatest game in the world and I’m excited for the people here in the city to see the game live because I think you immediately become fans once you get the opportunity watch a game played live, so I’m pretty confident that’ll happen here tomorrow.
On whether the decision to come to China was a “no-brainer,” or whether there was “hesitation”:
To be honest, I don’t know exactly the steps that led to us being a part of the game here, but I do know part of our company is worldwide and definitely has a presence in China. I think the opportunity to come over here and play is something that we welcome with open arms. You get a chance to come here, in terms of the demands, it’s a long way to go and it’s physically demanding on your team, but I think it’s positioned really well. We get a chance to start camp a couple days early, we got four days in and one game at home, and now we get a week over here, which we consider a good amount of time. We get back with two home games at the tail end there, plus four or five days after that before we actually start the season. So our main concern was return, get our guys acclimated, feeling really good, no effects from that much travel, so I actually think the trip itself is positioned perfectly in terms of where to put it in training camp.
On how to generate more offensive production with a similar group of players as last year:
I think that we can’t ignore one of the big reasons for our success and the foundation is just our commitment to play without the puck, and I think that still has to be a real focus of our hockey team. But clearly we’ve put some focus on our offensive part of the game, trying to create more offensively. We’ve tried to put more structure in place where we just get in a better position to score. Ultimately, it’s a skill and a talent that takes over. We feel there are guys in our lineup that had off years last year that had terrific summers that can come back and get back to the level we expect from ‘em, and we think we have some young players that got some experience from some tough times last year that are ready to not just play in the league but perform in the league. We really believe that we have an opportunity to get a lot better from within both with players that are established in the league and with players that are getting established in the league.
On how he’ll split the goaltending duties over the two games in China:
With the situation we’ve had with not a lot of games at our disposal I think it’s important just to sit down with Billy and see what the guys need, number one, and number two, make sure we have a chance to evaluate the goalies we have. We kind of looked at the time off with some of our guys, but I think it’s important as we go through camp to get to play full games. Goalies are a little bit different in that position where they go right in and play 60 minutes. You see different progressions where they play half the game, they play two periods. But I do think it’s important that at some point they play a full game.
On the preseason penalty crackdown, and whether the team has met with the officials yet:
Yeah, we did. We met with them. We were home, before the game we played, and then we met them this morning with the linesmen and the referees just to try and continue to get some input. What’s important to us is we get the criteria so we can teach better. We had the same situation in our game at home where we had a lot of stick infractions, so we’re just trying to get a better understanding of exactly what they’re looking for and what criteria leads to a penalty so we can basically be better checkers. They’re good about it. We told our guys, look, if you get a power play, try and take advantage of it, and if there’s a penalty called, let’s work on our penalty kill. Let’s not get frustrated by it. I think we’ve done a good job of that, and we also kind of expected this because of the rules, and they kind of warned us at the draft and we meant that this is something they’re going to crack down on, so we moved special teams up a day in terms of our normal progression and figured right there’d be a lot of opportunities on special teams, especially early in the preseason.
On the importance of the NHL traveling to China to grow the sport:
I think it’s a critical step. I mentioned it already, but I think if you have a chance to see the game live, I think you immediately become a fan, but I also think when you get an opportunity to engage and spend time with hockey people in general, I think you come away with a really good feeling. You become a fan of the sport and I think you become a fan of the people involved with the sport, and I think the fact that the teams are here and the NHL gives us a great opportunity to not only put the game on display but also have some interaction with the people here, with the kids, trying to help grow the game. I think hockey’s loaded with great people and I think the opportunity to get here and spend some time in both these cities will only lead to good things.
-One question about Kurtis MacDermid has been saved for a story that will be published tomorrow.