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In The CreaseIn The Crease Ice Level: Steve Stirling

The word from the professionals on the game's X's and O's

Sunday, November 02, 2003

Steve Stirling of the Islanders is a rookie head coach in the NHL but has run benches since 1978 at other levels of hockey, including the NCAA and AHL.

Dejan Kovacevic asked him Wednesday at Mellon Arena to share his views on whether a head coach should treat goaltenders differently in communicating with them:

It really depends of the personality.

If you're talking about Rick DiPietro, a year ago, I couldn't talk to him at all. Neither could his teammates. But he has mellowed. Someone like Garth Snow, who has been around a long time and has a different kind of temperament, you can talk to him about anything, any time, any place, even between periods.

The key, I think, is picking your spots. With Snowy, I really don't bother him, even though I know I can talk to him. I let him be. I know that, nine times out of 10, when he makes a mistake, he knows what he did. I don't have to remind him of it. I maybe need to say, "Forget about it. Let's move on." But you know what? With any players, there are teaching moments and non-teaching moments.

The one time I really try to avoid talking to the goaltenders is after pulling them. That's no fun. But even there, I can find times where it's necessary, especially when I take out somebody when what's happening is not his fault. I did that this year in Washington, when I took out Snowy after his fourth goal. That shot was wandering about 40 feet wide, hit someone and went in. To me, that was just the icing on the cake for the whole team. I didn't say anything to him right away, but I went over at the next whistle and just gave him a little pat on the back.

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