The typically loquacious Matt Niskanen held court with the media after today's morning skate. He talked about a whole host of subjects including, the media, staying in a hotel last night, Sidney Crosby, water bottles and of course, tonight's Game 7.
You had a pretty loose, fun morning skate today.
"Yeah. There’s enough pressure out there, outside pressure out there. All kinds of [stuff] going around so might as well make it fun. It’s a Game 7. It’s a big game. Might as well make it fun and bring it. Don’t worry about a thing and go as hard as you can."
Do you mean stuff regarding media, fans...?
"You guys [media]. No offense but we’re not going to worry about the negatively outside the room right now on the morning of a Game 7. We’ll worry about what we can control as a group and individually and try to play our best game of the series, best game of the season hopefully and lay it on the line. See what happens. See where it takes us."
What's key to the start of the game?
"The first goal is going to be big. That’s not necessarily going to dictate the ultimate outcome of the game but it is going to be a factor. Our first five, 10 minutes we need to be a lot better. We need to come out of the gates, pumping, skating, hitting, forechecking. Not on our heels. We kind of just sat around waiting for things to happen until we got going a little bit the last couple of games. Try to be a little more assertive at the start."
Have the Rangers changed anything with their penalty kill?
"They haven’t changed a whole lot. They’re still good at staying compact. They pressure when they can but they stay compact. They have good shot blockers. [Rangers goaltender Henrik] Lundqvist has been good on a few occasions for them at controlling rebounds. A couple of big saves. Kind of the same theme as always. We just try to get more shots and try to get more people around there to get secondary goals."
The team stayed in a hotel last night despite being the home team tonight. Is that an attempt to make this feel like a road game?
"That was part of it I think. We’re all in this together. Let’s hang out together before the biggest game of the season. Hopefully we do bring that road mentality. Sometimes there’s extra pressure to win at home or something. I don’t think that’s the case tonight. It’s a Game 7. It is at home so we can use that to our advantage. I don’t think there’s extra pressure to win it because you’re at home. Everyone pulls together and try to play our best game for each other."
Has the team done enough to protect Sidney Crosby from some of the physical play the Rangers have taken to him?
"What are you going to do? It’s the playoffs. Are you going to sucker punch [Rangers defenseman Marc] Staal because he hit him in the head? You can’t put your team down in the playoffs. What I’ve been trying to do, I’ve been trying to go after their smaller skilled guys within the rules. I haven’t taken a penalty but make it hard on them. They should be bruised after the game. If Sid’s going to take it, we got to make the front of our net a tough place to be … a tougher place than it has been. Make those guys pay a price."
What did you make of Lundqvist being fined $5,000 for squirting Crosby's face with a water bottle in Game 6?
"Sometimes playoffs bring out the childish things in us I think. It’s an emotional thing. You do things you probably wouldn’t normally do. That’s an expensive sip of water."
Is there anything different about how you play a Game 7 compared to any other game?
"You do all the same things. You go into it with the same X and O mentality as you would any other playoff game for sure I think. You see everybody’s best compete level. You see everybody’s urgency. That is just at its peak. It’s an elimination game for both teams. That is just at its highest. As far as what you want to do or what you want to accomplish, how you want to play in the game doesn’t change a whole lot. Just everyone is all in on what you’re trying to accomplish."
(Photo: Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)