Mike Babcock addressed the media after practice on Tuesday, discussing Michael Hutchinson’s bid for the backup job, Tyson Barrie’s game, his impression of Egor Korshkov in camp and preseason.
With five games to go and three games, is it an opportunity for you to focus in and really finalize preparations for next Wednesday?
Babcock: I think it’s so important, especially with so many new guys on our roster this year, that our details have to be there and our work ethic has to be there. I thought the group worked last night and we need the same out of our big boys here tomorrow. There are still quite a few roster decisions to be made and obviously there is ice time to be determined. Each year, every player has something different at camp. Whether you are a guy who already has power play time, you want that, or penalty kill time, you want that. Everyone wants extra. That is what is available. Other guys are trying to make the team.
How comfortable are you now with Hutchinson as the backup to Frederik Andersen?
Babcock: Hutch is a good kid. Hutch works real hard. I thought Hutch played real well last night. The biggest thing is you’ve just got to work together and make sure we have a good, stable backup so that we are in a position where we can start him at any time and not worry about it and know you have an opportunity to win. That is the biggest challenge for you: You’ve got to win games. The division is going to be real tight. Teams have gotten better. We know there is a challenge there, so we need good goaltending.
Do you see that potential in him for it to be him?
Babcock: That’s what we’re hoping for and we are betting on that. Obviously, our goalie people have done a lot of work to try to set us up to make the right decisions there.
What went into the decision to release Michal Neuvirth from his PTO?
Babcock: To be honest with you, I wasn’t involved in that and don’t know much about it. I just know he is not here today.
Where do you see the biggest room for growth in Tyson Barrie’s game? You mentioned the other day that you think he is scratching the surface there.
Babcock: I just think he is a real good player. He has great instincts. He can skate. He can pass the puck. He can shoot. He can defend. I just think that we can help him defend more so that he has the puck way more often. Sometimes you think about defense as though it is going to take away from your offensive game, but it’s just going to improve his offensive game because he won’t be playing defense. I think he has got real good swagger about him. He is a committed guy. He is confident in his abilities. He’s got good abilities.
How do you overcome the language barrier with Korshkov and Mikheyev?
Babcock: It’s not easy for them. Just think… Well, I can’t even imagine if I am in Russia and I am trying to keep up with things going 100 miles an hour. Over time, they are going to get it. It goes to show you how good of players they are — to just be surviving when you don’t know. I don’t know, are you getting 50%? Mikheyev more than Korshkov, to be honest with you. But it didn’t seem to hurt Korsh last night in the game.
Have you ever picked up any Russian along the way?
Babcock: No, none. I’m sure none I could repeat.
How much did Korshkov’s performance last night affect your decision making?
Babcock: I am probably a little bit different than you. I have been seeing a real good player right from the get-go. His hands and his hockey sense for a man that big — I mean, he makes plays every time he has it. We’ve seen that right through. As he gets used to it and he understands more, he’s got a better chance to look way quicker.
The other thing is we often say he’s not very quick, but then I saw him by three NHL defensemen last night. Maybe he is just that big that he doesn’t look that quick. He is a good player. We like him. We’ll just keep going with the process.