(Before I transcribe, tonight was the fourth or fifth time that I’ve been around this season where Tortorella began his session with a good, old, joking-around with the assembled media, then he patiently answered every question in detail. I’m telling you, this is how he was the last time he was here. Good for him. Maybe he went to see the Wizard. A couple of the previous joke-sessions weren’t printable. Tonight he went on a bit about how he’d like for some of the writers to sit at the podium while he grilled them with questions).
On what he hopes to see from Grachev tonight.
“Anything good. I haven’t seen him … I saw him during camp. I just want to see him play. I want to see what he can do. We’ve gotten some decent reports on him down there. I’m not exactly where it’ll all go as far as his ice time and play. But we need to take a look at him in this situation. I’m not looking for one particular thing. He’s going to speak to us with his play as far as to where he’s progressed to.
“I think the the things we asked (Hartford coach Ken Gernander) about was just his strength on the puck. That’s something we talked to him about early in camp, protecting the puck, using his body to protect the puck, his wall play. He hasn’t scored a bunch, but from a coach’s point of view, for him to get some ice time at the NHL level, and all coaches will tell you, is he can’t hurt you defensively. It can’t be turnovers. It has to be strength, especially with his body size. We want him to understand how he has to play along the walls.
“Kenny(‘s reports) are not glowing, but he’s still just a kid and this gives him an opportunity here for us to look at him in an NHL game, regular season not exhibition.”
On Boyle moving up to a line with Avery and Fedotenko:
“He deserves to be there.”
On what he’s seen from Frolov, and Frolov-Prust as linemates.
“He has to play better and he understands that. We’ve had a number of conversations. I think one of his biggest strengths is his strength on the puck underneath the hash marks offensively. You can see that’s where the main part of his game is. … We need him getting more shots, we need him around the puck more offensively.
“I think the combination of both of them, I think Pruster ads a forecheck. He is constantly in on the forecheck. I think Alex can protect pucks. It hasn’t been a good line, by no means, as we’ve gone through the early part of this season here. But we’re going to start with it tonight and see where we go with it.”
On how Stepan fits with them.
“I think Step is a guy who sees the ice, I think is a good defensive player. He’s had some struggles, as we’ve talked about. We’ve gone over quite a bit with him. I’m not sure if it works. We had quite a few (topics to discuss) with Step yesterday. I want to give him another opportunity there. We may make some changes along the way if there’s still a struggle with his game. I’m not in love with the combination. It’s basically, I don’t want to rob Peter to pay Paul and have all my lines in a mix. I think Boyle stepped up really well the other night with Fedotenko and Avery, and that Anisimov line I’m keeping together.”
“Plain and simple, Step has to play harder, and play in the areas like we’re asking everybody else to do. By no means to I think he’s a shy player. I just think it’s not a true understanding of how we have to play, and how he has to play. He’s a talented player, but he also has to do the other things around the puck … as our team, as I’ve harped upon here, you do those dirty things, the hard things, through the body, and you start that way and all the other things fall into place. It not only goes for the team, but it goes for the individual. I think that’s a big part of the learning process for Step right now, and I think he’ll get it. We’re not looking for him to be banging all over the place, but he needs to be involved and be around the puck more than he has been, and do a little of his own work.”
On how Staal bounces back from games like he had Wednesday.
“Yeah, and on the goal — you’re talking about Little’s goal — it’s not completely his fault on that. That’s a combination that starts with our deep forecheck, where we simply don’t take the speedy away from that team. (Stepan) starts in the corner and he swings off a guy, then he ends up the guy cutting in front of Sean (Avery) to go across the ice, where if Step hit the guy in the corner, Aves would have known that he’s going across the ice. So we’re all in-between there a little bit and it allowed them way too much speed coming through the neutral zone.
“But to answer the question, he’s going to be fine. He’s a guy that — he’s our top guy and this is all part of maturity, handling those situations. He’s already shown that to us, that he can, and I think he’ll play very well tonight.”
On how his second-year players are developing.
“Artie (Anisimov) has continued to impress a far as his aptitude, learning. You say one thing to him as far as a correction and he picks it right up. He’s been one of our better players all year long in all areas, on our penalty kill, 5 on 5, in our end zone, he’s done a pretty good job on the power play. We’re asking a lot of him in this situation as far as a young guy, but he’s handled it pretty well. We watch it closely because we don’t want to screw him up, either, by giving him too much at one time and putting him into a hole. But right now he’s a pretty good player.
“Michael Del Zotto, a kid that carries the right type of arrogance. As I always say, that’s something I watch very closely, so that he doesn’t get on the wrong side of that arrogance and forget about preparation, forget about what it is to be a young kid learning to be a pro. He still has a lot of things to learn, but the thing I like about him is that arrogance, that if he makes a mistake he’ll come right back and try to make that play, and he’s not afraid of that. But it’s a constant evaluation with Michael, both offensively and defensively, for a young guy that’s getting a lot of minutes playing against top people.”
Some of the Carolina writers asked him about Tim Gleason, the defenseman for whom Tortorella lobbied to be on Team USA in the Olympics last year (when he was an assistant coach who handled the defense). He said some glowing things about Gleason … and finished with “I think he’s one of the more underrated players in the game, in the league here, and I hope he stinks tonight. … you could tell him that, too.”