Mike Babcock addressed the media after practice on Tuesday, discussing the recall of Calle Rosen and first ever NHL call-up for Andreas Johnsson, Nazem Kadri’s recent production and evolution as a player, and much more.
How important is it to reward seasons like the one Andreas Johnsson has had and give him a chance to possibly come up here, with the consistency and everything that he’s done?
Babcock: He’s had a good year. We haven’t had a lot of opportunity to give him a chance. Even now, we’re obviously going to have to sit someone else to do it. That makes it hard. But we have opportunity here this week with three games, so we’ll have a look at him and therefore, if we need him come playoff time, we have an understanding of what he can do.
Obviously, we’ve seen him lots, whether it be on TV or live. He’s had a real good year. We had high hopes when he came to the American league and he got hurt right away. It took a while to get his game back, but he seems like he’s a real good hockey player down there and they really like him. He’s ultra competitive and very intelligent, so we’ll watch him and see how it goes.
What do you like about him in that PP spot in front of the net there?
Babcock: Quick hands, has got a good brain, gets the puck in and out. He’s tenacious and gets it back and seems to support it well. We just think he’s a smart player. Real good hockey sense, good determination, good hands. Now he’s got to transfer it to the NHL. As we all know, you never know 100%. You go with your best hunches and see what happens.
Is he up here for the foreseeable future, or is it to get him up here for a game and then back down so he’s playing all the time?
Babcock: The plan is to dress him tomorrow night and then recreate a plan. How’s that?
How’d Auston look today compared to yesterday?
Babcock: Obviously, he’s coming every day. I can just tell by the amount of physical contact the was in today versus yesterday. He’s going in the right direction. We hope he’ll be over-ready before he gets in.
It’s almost been a complete turnaround defensively under Hitchcock for the Dallas Stars. What have you seen in their game that’s allowed them to cut down drastically on their goals against?
Babcock: Hitch is a serial winner. Wherever he goes, he wins. That’s just the facts. That’s what he does and that’s what he’s done forever. There is no surprise there. They’re just playing well. They’re playing well without the puck and making it hard on you. Even in their loss I watched the other night against Pittsburgh, they’re very, very stingy, to say the least. Their penalty kill is good. They look after their goaltender and they’re a good hockey club. They’re playing Montreal tonight, so we’ll get to see that, and then we’ll get ready for them tomorrow.
How have you seen Calle Rosen’s game progress since he came up here last October?
Babcock: I think, like a lot of other guys who think they’re going to play in the NHL, when they go down, they struggle for a bit. He’s an elite skater. He’s got a great brain. He’s playing a way stronger game. I don’t know if he’s stronger, but he’s playing a way stronger game, and that’s confidence. That’s probably just knowing where to go and where to stand, but I watched him yesterday and I thought it was real good. The last two times I watched them live, I thought he was good. He’s getting better and better, and that’s what you want.
We didn’t have any D here today, obviously, and with the emergency, we were able to bring him here and have a look at him. I don’t know what is going on as far as these guys that are sick, so we’ll see.
You had a chance to coach Jamie Benn before. You only had a couple of practices with Seguin in the World Cup, but what do those two guys bring to the table – more than just the skillset?
Babcock: I mean, Benner is a real hockey player. He can punch you in the mouth, he can shoot it in the net, he can penalty kill, he can take faceoffs, play the wing, play center – do whatever. He is a real hockey player – an elite hockey player, a real competitor.
Seguin is obviously, elite, elite, elite skill – a skater, a shooter, a dangerous guy, good in the faceoff circle.
You throw Radulov in the mix there and he’s tenacious and heavy down low as any player in the league.
I like their hockey club. They’ve done a good job there this year. They’re competitive and it’s going to be a hard game. We’ll watch them tonight and get ready for tomorrow.
Nazem Kadri has five goals in his last six games. What impressed you about how he stuck with it during that slump earlier this season?
Babcock: I didn’t know he had a slump. I kept hearing about the slump but he was playing against the best players and we’d win and they’d get no goals. To me, that is what he is paid to do, right there. He is paid to make sure that someone else can win the matchup in our lineup and the rest of it is bonus.
Obviously, on the power play, he does a real nice job in that area, and then he’s just getting more and more confident. To me, it’s real clear: Naz wants to be a scorer and he’s a middle-of-the-road scorer in the NHL. If he wants to be a checking line center who is nasty and scores, then he’s an upper-echelon player.
Curtis and Freddy seem to have developed a really good relationship. What have you made of Curtis and the way he’s performed his role this year?
Babcock: Mac is a real good man and he’s played real well for us, obviously. The one thing here is we know who the starter is. We know what Mac’s job is, and they do, too. Just by being a good pro and a good person and knowing your job, I think that’s a real way to support the starting goalie. He’s done a great job for us, to say the least.
Alex Ovechkin reached his 600-goal milestone last night. Where does he rank for you among the purest goal scorers you’ve coached against?
Babcock: Unbelievable for Ovie. I like Ovie. He’s got a real personality. He’s got a love of the game, a real zest and energy for life. I think he’s great for the game. He’s hard to play against. He’s a big man. He’s determined. It’s amazing – the puck just goes in when he has it. He can get it off through the legs, around legs, through people like nothing I’ve ever seen. Obviously, Bossy is a guy that I watched as a kid lots and there must be lots of guys that think like that, but that’s who I think of who can just shoot it in the net. The guy in Winnipeg looks like he’s falling right behind that.