Mike Babcock addressed the media after practice on Monday, discussing the team’s lack of road wins, Josh Leivo’s status, the challenge ahead against Carolina on Tuesday, and more.
You have a young team. Do you see them grow in increments in practice? Are there mental points in games where you notice a growth or a change?
Mike Babcock: What you do is you watch the first time you play a team and then you watch the second time. You play Florida once and then you watch them again, and you can’t even believe it’s the same team. Every team in the league is taking drastic steps early. Our guys have to take big steps, and then you’ve got to have that youth growth as well. Not only do we have to get better structurally as a team, they’ve got to get better as players. They’re working hard at that each and every day. When it goes real good, life is good. When it doesn’t go very good, life is tough in the national league, especially at the start. Confidence is a huge part of it. I think we’re going in the right direction. We’ve got a lot of work to do.
Do you have an update on Josh Leivo?
Babcock: Leivo’s back. We’d have liked him to play more games just because he missed so much. We’re going to practice him a bit to get him up to speed before he’s ready to go. He wouldn’t be cleared yet.
So he’s not on the roster?
Babcock: I don’t know what all of those rules are, but if you ask somebody who knows, they might be able to explain it to you.
On Saturday night, after the game, you were talking about the winning mindset. How does that come about? Is it veteran guys? Is it just time, organically?
Babcock: No, we’re going to force it to happen, obviously. For me, it was a disappointing result for sure. I believe we’re capable of going in and getting points. You’ve got to get your mind right that you expect that to happen. Sometimes it takes some disappointment to get you to get it fixed, but to me we’re capable. We’ve got to fix the things technically, but the emotional level and the commitment to doing it right and the physical commitment to pay the price to get it looked after – we need that, so we need more of it.
Zaitsev had a career-high in ice time on Saturday. What is the biggest challenge, in your mind, for him going forward?
Babcock: I don’t know if we played him too much. You look at those things after, not during as much. The bottom line is we’ve got to find him his right mix. We do the same with Rielly. He is playing on the powerplay and the penalty kill because [Martin Marincin] isn’t there. Too much for him? I don’t know the answer to that. But we’ll work it out over time so we have him on his optimum minutes.
Was Saturday night a good step on the road? I know you lost the game, but in terms of narrowing the gap with success on home ice?
Babcock: I think last time we played in Montreal we were probably better than this time we played in Montreal. I mean, it’s a fine game. You lost the game. I had no issue with that. Just, to me, we can better, and we have to be better. We’re going to be in New Jersey right away here. Obviously, we’ve got a huge game against Carolina, but you want to be able to win in both places. To me, it shouldn’t be any different.
When you look at the roll Carolina has been on, does it remind you that you’re not the only team trying to make some noise in this league?
Babcock: I don’t need to be reminded. I watch the league pretty close, so I’ve got a good handle on that. I watched them last night, too. I thought they were outstanding. It’s going to be really tight tomorrow. They can really skate and they’ve got a good young team. Their backend moves and the goalie is playing well. We’re going to have our hands full.