Q. Just a thought on what was it like out there on the ice this morning?
COACH JULIEN: Well, I think I saw our guys focused. I thought we had a good morning skate, a short one.
At the same time, I think our guys were focused, but also loose in a way that you can tell most of them have been through this before. I know for a fact that a few years ago there was some nervousness in our group and everything else.
I feel good about our morning skate. So hopefully it shows tonight.
Q. A few days ago you mentioned it's important not to kind of feel your way through the first game. What do you feel is the balance between establishing your game right off the bat and at the same time sort of reading and reacting to what the Blackhawks bring?
COACH JULIEN: Well, I think we know what they do. So it's not necessarily about, you know, feeling, like you said. It's just reacting to their strengths, hopefully exploiting some weaknesses in teams and everything else. That's what you got to do.
I think at the drop of the puck, both teams are going to try to do that, they're going to try to establish their game. I know they will and so will we.
I think that's why everybody is excited to see this series start and see what happens here at the drop of the puck.
Q. What sort of message do you give the players prior to the game?
COACH JULIEN: Not much different than anything else. We've gotten here, which is great. But until you've accomplished the final stages of the playoffs, you haven't reached your ultimate goal.
So getting here is one thing, but finishing it is another. We know this could be a tough series. I think you guys all feel the same way as we do. It's pretty evenly matched. I think it will be fun to be part of, from my end of it. I think it will be fun for hockey fans to watch.
Q. Claude, given that you haven't played the Blackhawks, do you go into the series with specific line matchups you have in mind or are you going to let it evolve?
COACH JULIEN: I don't think there's much, again, that we don't know about each other. Although we haven't played against each other, I don't think our game plan is going to change. What you've seen us do in the other rounds, we'll continue to do because it's worked for us.
Q. The fact you haven't seen these guys, the feeling-out process in the first five, ten minutes, what do you anticipate?
COACH JULIEN: Again, not to nitpick on the question, but we've seen these guys. We haven't played against them, but we've seen enough to know what they're capable of doing. They've seen enough about us to do the same thing.
So, like I said, I don't think there's going to be a feeling-through process. I think both teams are going to try to establish their game on the other. That's what's going to be interesting.
I know we don't plan on being on our heels in the first 10 minutes, and I don't think they do as well. That's what's going to be exciting.
Q. You haven't played Chicago this year, but does Chicago remind you of anyone in the Eastern Conference that you did play this year?
COACH JULIEN: Well, I mean, they have their own identity. But there's no doubt when you look at the offense, you can certainly compare them to Pittsburgh. Their goals-against is extremely good. So defensively they're a hard team to score against. New York Rangers were one of those teams.
I think it's a combination of a lot of things. As far as I'm concerned, they have their own identity. They do things that no other teams do, that we're aware of. When you look at their back end, they have a lot of Kris Letangs, let's put it that way, that can carry the puck up the ice and attack.
There's a lot of things they have. Through our scouting reports, what we've watched, we see a lot of those kinds of things.
Q. Whether Kane and Toews play together or apart, can you tell us how that impacts your team?
COACH JULIEN: It doesn't. We just have to react to it in a way whoever is on the ice. We've said that before, whoever is on the ice has to be aware of the other team's players on the ice.
In our system, everybody knows our game without the puck is important. I think that's what has gotten us this far, we've respected that, back-checked. Our numbers coming back have continued.
Whether I have my fourth line out, guys you can talk about like Kelly and Paille, I don't think anybody is worried about their game defensively, and Shawn Thornton who has done a great job on that line as well. There's a lot of trust in our coaching staff when those guys are out there, even when they put a top line on.
That's why I talk about the matchups up front. Not the end of the world. You'll probably see, as every other series, our back end matches up a little more aggressively than our front end. Joel already knows that, too, by the way (smiling).
Q. During the lockout, a lot of guys tried to find ways to stay sharp. In what ways do you think Tyler benefited from going to Switzerland?
COACH JULIEN: For him, he's a young player. I think he wanted to play. It was important for him to go there. There was a lot of good things that came out of that trip to Switzerland, to play there.
Also, at the same time, there were some challenges coming back. Bigger ice surface, different type of play. As good as he was there, he probably had to adjust a little bit. He came back, maybe after a couple weeks or so, he kind of got himself back into the North American NHL type of game.