Minneapolis, MN – Barry Melrose here sitting down with Head Coach of the Minnesota Rink Rats, Dan Bylsma about the first week and half of the WHL season. Dan good to have you here in the studio.
Bylsma: Nice to be here Barry.
Melrose: Nice start to the season going undefeated in your first 5 with a 4-0-1 record and now sliding a bit with 2 tough losses. What are your thoughts on the team’s strong start?
Bylsma: Yeah thanks. We were pretty excited following those first 5 games and still are feeling really good even after losing a couple of tough back-to-back games. I’m pretty excited to see how well Ryan Miller has been playing. He’s been lights out and saved our butts quite a few times back there. He was last week’s first star and although he’s had a rough go as of late, he’s looking on top of his game.
Overall I’m pleased with the team’s effort. We’re getting scoring from all 3 lines, our penalty kill has been great, and David Krejci has really emerged as one of our best players. Dustin Penner and Matthew Lombardi have done a good job finding the back of the net; something we need them to continue moving forward.
Melrose: Hate to interrupt but with all of those positives and a balanced scoring attack the team really hasn’t played well on the power play. How do you improve on that?
Bylsma: Well you’re right; we’ve played pretty poorly on the power play this season thus far. With a lot of new faces on this team it’s going to take a while to find some chemistry on the power play and because we don’t really have a go-to-guy like we did last season in Mike Cammalleri the goals aren’t going to come as easy. For tonight’s game we’re going to try something out and see if it works. Viktor Stalberg may get a shot on the special teams tonight and because we’re a young club and guys will improve as the season progresses.
Melrose: You mention Stalberg – what rookies or young players have impressed you the most this early in the season?
Bylsma: Well Stalberg putting up 4 goals in limited time he’s played for us has been a really nice contribution for our team. With his speed and size he has a good future in front of him. Ryan O’Reilly has played well on our penalty killing units and I’ve been pleased with his hussle. He has some offensive potential but we’ve certainly enjoyed his defense. Kyle Cumiskey has also played well. He may be the only player with a minus-rating but he’s so fast and skates so well. He moves the puck well we just need him to take more shots. The other rookie on our squad is Gilbert Brule. I think he gets overlooked because of the other guys but he’s done a nice job centering our third line.
Melrose: Almost out of time. Any news you have regarding trades, team news, etc?
Bylsma: I know our front office is working on a couple of deals. I can’t say exactly who’d be involved or who we’d get in return but anything we do will keep the long-term success of our team in mind. Sadly, one of our top scorers may end up being moved out before the end of the week if one of the deals is finalized. The front office also discussed the notion of moving Jimmy Howard for a young goal scorer. I haven’t heard if there’s been any progress there or not.
Melrose: Well that’s all here from Minnesota.