The once-unlikely opportunity in front of the Blackhawks is a driving motivation across the roster during the opening days of camp. Largely considered out of the playoff hunt in early March, the league's 24-team Return to Play plan has afforded them a brand new slate to prove themselves.
For the core veterans, it's a welcomed return to the playoff hockey they were so frequently part of over the last decade. But, for the vast majority, it's going to be the first taste of an NHL postseason -- just 11 of the 35 players in camp have playoff game experience.
Qualifying Round designation or not, with fans or without, it's just as exciting as the real deal for the newcomers.
"A lot of the young guys, we were talking a lot over Phase 1 and Phase 2 and we're all excited," Dylan Strome told reporters on Tuesday. "I think you've got to look at the positives. We had not a great shot to make the playoffs turned into almost being in the playoffs. We've got to win a three-out-of-five series to get to the dance and we're looking forward to the opportunity. We've got a lot of experience in here and a lot of young guys that are fresh and ready to go. We're excited. We haven't had a taste of that yet and hopefully looking to show what we can do."
"It'll be pretty cool going home and playing those meaningful games," Kirby Dach said of not only playing postseason hockey, but doing so in his hometown of Edmonton. "I feel like our group has a good chance and we feel confident in our team to win. Hopefully I won't lose too many friendships over the series, but at the end of the day we're here to win a Cup."
As the 12th and final seed in the West matched up against the high-flying hosts in Edmonton, that internal confidence might not be one shared by those outside the city of Chicago. It's not something that phases anyone inside the room, though. They're looking to ride the wave of excitement their newfound life has brought. After all, once you're in, anything can happen.
"For us, it doesn't really matter," said Brandon Saad, who was once in the opposite situation as a rookie among a veteran, playoff-tested group. "I think just the excitement to be here and have the opportunity -- you see teams that are not always ranked the highest that win the Cup, so the opportunity is there for everyone. We're not sure if we would've had this opportunity. Older guys, younger guys, the excitement's through the roof to be able to embrace this challenge."