Hershey coach Bob Woods was at the Verizon Center last night, so he answered some questions about his Bears and their success so far this season. Here is what he had to say:
WOODS: We had a great start, there was a little bump in the road there — maybe we got a little complacent, maybe things were coming too easy and we got in a bit of a rut — but the guys have responded with nine straight wins. There is a lot of confidence right now.
Q: You’ve lost four defensemen [to Washington]. How have you been able to do it?
WOODS: When you think about it, we have [Dean] Arsene out too, so it is probably five of our top six who are out. It was just opportunity. You have Patty McNeil Sean Collins who were both not playing earlier in the year. They had great camps and should have been in the lineup, but now they’ve stepped in filled that void. We’ve called up a couple of guys from South Carolina in [Sasha] Pakulok and [Josh] Godfrey and they’ve stepped in.
Q: What is going on with Oskar Osala?
WOODS: It was exciting watching him in summer camp and rookie camp this year, and he is just one of those guys. Any time you see a guy that big that can skate that well, and he’s got a great shot it is exciting. He’s having a lot of success down there. That whole line with him, [Francois] Bouchard and [Mathieu] Perreault has been very consistent for a young group. They are scoring pretty well every night. Oskar is a guy I think you will see up here [in Washington] very soon.
Q: What do you think Osala has to do to improve the most on to get to this level?
WOODS: He’s young, and he’s going to make the little mistakes, but he is just the type of kid who wants to get better all the time. He is starting to understand things more now. He knows when he makes a mistake. I don’t even have to tell him when he does. He comes to the bench and pretty well knows what I am going to say. To me, that is something. It shows that he is coachable, and it shows that he has the attitude to want to get better and he wants to be at this level.
Q: What about Simeon Varlamov?
WOODS: Varlamov had that injury in camp and I think he probably came back too soon the first time. We took the time, took a good two weeks to make sure he was 100 percent and ever since then he has played the way I think everybody expected to see him play. Again, he’s another guy who has a bright future and it is probably only a matter of time before he gets his chance.
Q: Has he adjusted to the North American style?
WOODS: Very much — he’s a guy who is such a competitor. He plays hard every day, every practice. He doesn’t like to get scored on. We’re helping him with the [language]. He’s taking English courses two or three times a week. He’s doing everything he can to get himself acclimated to the States. He’s juat a great kid to have around. I know the guys really think highly of him. I think he is excited about what he is doing and where he is going.
Q: It seems like you are getting scoring from everyone?
WOODS: That is probably one of the biggest strengths of our team. We have depth from all four lines. It is pretty tough for other teams to shut us down because any line can score. If I look at my lineup, I can almost use all four lines on a power play. That is the talent that we have. They are just a good group. They are a fun group. They love to work hard and to me it makes things easy. They’re exciting to be around.
Q: Do you talk to George [McPhee] or Bruce [Boudreau] at all because of these injuries?
WOODS: I talk to Bruce probably once or twice a day. It is just the relationship that we have. We both of an interest in what is going on up here and what is going on down there. He still cares about the Hershey Bears and he hasn’t forgotten about us. I think that is important. He’s got to keep tabs on what guys are doing down there so when they get into these type of situations he is right on top of things.
Q: Is Oskar Osala ready to play in this league?
WOODS: I think he is close. I think he has everything you need — size, all the tools, he’s got that great NHL shot, he’s big and physical. I think most guys in the league if you ask them don’t like playing against him down low because he is just a force to try and control.