Although the Chicago Blackhawks said they're treating Monday night’s potential Stanley Cup-clinching contest as just another game, Tampa Bay Lightning Coach Jon Cooper said Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final won't be like any other that his team has played.
The Blackhawks lead the Lightning, three games to two, and can win the Cup for the third time in six seasons Monday night. If Tampa Bay wins Monday the Cup finale would come down to Game 7 Wednesday at Amalie Arena. So to Cooper, this wasn't an ordinary occasion.
"No chance. The Stanley Cup's in the building. I can't believe they would say, 'Oh, it's just another game,'" he said after his team’s optional morning skate at the United Center.
But that's exactly what the Blackhawks did say, out of determination to keep their routine as close to normal as possible. For the Lightning, though, the game is different because it could bring an unhappy ending to a long season.
"We know it's just not another game. We haven't treated those elimination games like that,"
said Cooper, whose team rallied to win the last two games against Detroit in the opening round and defeated the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final. "This is much different than Game 1. You’ve got to win or you go home. On the other side, you know what happens if they win.
"No, I don't like to sugarcoat anything. This is the reality of the business we're in. We need to rise to the occasion."
Cooper said forward Nikita Kucherov, who hit his head on the goalpost early in the Lightning’s 2-1 loss at Tampa on Saturday and missed most of that game, is probable for Monday’s game.
Kucherov said he will participate in the warmups and see how he feels.
Some of the questions posed to Cooper on Monday morning related to how this experience will help his team in the future. He deferred those inquiries, saying that the topic should wait until the Final is over and “it’s not over yet." But he added, "We've picked up a lot experience here in the last two months. I understand that Chicago has won a couple Cups in the last few years and have a heck of a team over there. But I think we have a heck of a team too.
"We're a pretty hungry group. So I think right now, you throw the experience out the window. It’s going to come down to will."
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