06/09/2010 4:55 PM - From chicagoblackhawks.com: (link)
PHILADELPHIA -- Tomas Kopecky sat on the bench as the Zamboni crept past him like a turtle on ice Wednesday morning. While holding a hockey stick weighed down by the dozen or so pucks taped to the blade, Kopecky sat alone as the machines cleaned the ice cut up during the Flyers' practice that ended only minutes earlier.
By the time Kopecky had put down the weighted stick, grabbed his own and hopped over the boards, Ben Eager had joined him on the ice, near the boards. Soon after Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, John Madden, Dave Bolland and the rest of the Blackhawks were skating around, ruining the fine work done by the ice crew here at Wachovia Center.
Madden took one of the nets, skated it over to its home behind the blue paint and planted it down. Joel Quenneville had to slide himself to close the door to the home bench left open by the Flyers. Patrick Sharp and Troy Brouwer were laughing with each other as they did some slow laps before Quenneville blew his whistle to start the practice.
Everything looked so normal, so routine.
It was an act.
Hockey players are creatures of habit until the day they know the Stanley Cup is going to be in the building and is theirs to lift. They talk a good game about how it's just another game and how their routine has to stay the same no matter the circumstances.
Easier said than done, 21-year-old right wing Patrick Kane said Wednesday morning, several hours before Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final, before the Blackhawks play to win the Cup for the first time since 1961.
"You try to treat it like a regular game, but it's tough because everyone knows what's at stake," he said. "It almost feels like a longer day and you're just waiting around a little bit more than usual."
Kane said he was able to get to sleep last night.
"Being a young kid I just pretty much need a warm glass of milk to put me to sleep," he joked.
"I woke up at 5 o'clock and was probably up for a half-hour or 45 minutes," Kane added. "It's something you think about. I had a few dreams about it last night. No bad dreams."
The Blackhawks treated their morning skate the same as they have all playoffs. They skated laps, did some sprints, worked on line rushes and several drills before closing with their popular cycle game where two guys work out of the corner and one gets in front of the net for a shot.
If they score -- they're shooting on backup goalie Cristobal Huet -- everybody hoots, hollers and lifts his stick. It's hilarious to watch and probably even funnier to participate in.
"It's good to keep things loose out there," Kane said. "We have a young team and we like to have a lot of fun. We're a close group. To me, there isn't a better group to win it with."