Greetings from Chicago, where a series of rainstorms has cleared out and left sunny skies for Game 6 of the Western Conference finals.
The Chicago Blackhawks, facing elimination at the hands of the Ducks on Wednesday night at Chicago's United Center, exuded confidence after their morning skate Wednesday as they prepared to try to extend the series. A seventh game, if necessary, will be played Saturday at Anaheim's Honda Center.
The Blackhawks were expected to make one lineup change -- taking out 40-year-old defenseman Kimmo Timonen and replacing him with David Rundblad. Timonen has struggled with the very limited minutes he has been playing; he’s averaging nine minutes and 25 seconds’ ice time per game. Rundblad played in the series opener and was -1 defensively.
If he gets in, Rundblad said, “I want to be better. I just want to help the team, help them be better. Be quicker, quicker to win the puck.”
It could be difficult for him to reenter the series now, but Rundblad said he’s prepared. “It's not the easiest thing, but it's still exciting,” he said. “I'd rather play in the game than bag skates. If I play tonight, I'll be excited.”
The Blackhawks also repeated that they’re confident facing Ducks goaltender Frederik Andersen after scoring five goals on him in their Game 4 win and four goals in their Game 5 loss. Forward Andrew Shaw, whose net-front presence has been imposing, said he and his teammates “for sure” have figured Andersen out.
“He’s a great goalie, has stood on his head all series, but I think if we get traffic to him, take away his eyes, it's going to be good for us,” Shaw said. “He's going to rebound from the last game and going to stand on his head again. He won the game. Emotions are high. We've got to dig down and play at another level.”
Defenseman Johnny Oduya said the Ducks’ plan to physically wear out Chicago’s top four defensemen -- who play a huge proportion of the minutes on defense -- has not worked.
“I think we feel pretty good,” he said. “I think every year there’s talk about this, trying to wear us down. I think [Bryan Bickell] answered this the other day: It’s tough skating around hitting, too. He would know, he’s a big tough forward. It takes energy to do that, too. I think it goes both ways. If you hit somebody, maybe you inflict a little pain, that would be something that’s beneficial down the line, but as long as you stay fresh, it’s not the biggest issue.”