Mike Babcock met with the media after Monday’s practice, discussing the upcoming Western road trip, the growth of Nazem Kadri and Jake Gardiner, and the status of Josh Leivo and William Nylander.
Do you see some consistency, at least in the least few weeks, where you’ve been leading in a lot of those road games?
Mike Babcock: I wouldn’t say that. We’ve been a different team on the road than we have been at home. I think that’s real apparent. I think we’re getting a lot better as a team. In saying that, you have to do it on the road and then you have to continue to play well. Any time you get away from that, it’s going to go the wrong way. Even the other night in the third period, we did lots of good things and yet we could’ve kept our foot on the gas more and played in the o-zone in the last six minutes more than we did. That’s all part of learning how to win, whether it be at home or on the road. At home, you’re blessed with matchups. On the road, they get what they want most of the time and you’ve got to find a way to outplay the guy across from you.
Do you like the long road trips from a team bonding and building prospective?
Babcock: I think it’s great. Obviously, we’ve got a lot of young guys on our team. We get a chance to get out on the road and get together. I think that will be fun for the guys. Rielly is from Vancouver and we’re going out there, which is nice as well. We play good teams while we’re out there. It should be a lot of fun.
In the year or so that you’ve been using [Nazem Kadri] in the matchup, shutdown role, have you seen him grow into it and improve even more?
Babcock: For sure. He’s getting to be a better and better player. I think his growth, as far as any player in the league in the last year, has been phenomenal. He’s got a long way to go. At home, he’s got an assignment. On the road, sometimes he doesn’t have the same detail in his game. He’s got to learn to play in both places and be dialled into both spots.
Subtle differences to Jake Gardiner’s game that you’ve seen? You’ve always been very confident in him. What’s allowed him to be so consistent as of late?
Babcock: He’s just getting better and better. I always thought before that going to get the puck was an issue and playing defence was an issue. That’s not a problem for him at all. He spends a lot of time making good plays. Once in a while, he can be lackadaisical, so we remind him of that. He’s a laidback guy. He’s got to get dialled in to play, but he’s a good, good player and he’s getting better all the time.
You guys are getting some balance on offence. How much has that help you with those matchups on the road?
Babcock: It should, but some of our guys are better defensively or without the puck than others. The other thing about it at home is that one line gets to play against the fifth and sixth D, too. Sometimes, because of who is on your team, you get the right matchups. That’s what you see on the good teams. When you’re really deep, it doesn’t matter as much – at home or on the road, it’s the same thing. When you’re not quite as deep, you can tell.
Josh Leivo is back with the team. Where is he at in terms of getting back up to speed?
Babcock: I think alright. He’s going to have to get into a game here eventually and get playing. We don’t just give those away. You’ve got to earn them. He’s got to keep doing good things.
William Nylander – it looks like he’s alright to play. You don’t want to mess with the winning lineup, I assume.
Babcock: He’s going to go in the lineup tomorrow and we’ll go from there. There are no messages. Compete hard and do good things.