It was a pretty surreal scene in and around the dressing rooms at United Center Saturday morning as the Chciago Blackhawks and Philadelphia Flyers made final preparations hours before Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final (8 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, RDS).
The teams conducted their usual pre-game skate before a horde of media members and television cameras. The empty seats within United Center will be replaced by a raucous fan base for Saturday's opener in this highly anticipated series.
Chicago coach Joel Quenneville ruled left wing Andrew Ladd for Game 1. He suffered an upper-body injury following a first-period collision with Sharks defenseman Rob Blake in Game 4 of Chicago's sweep of San Jose in the Western Conference Finals. Ladd will be replaced in the lineup by Tomas Kopecky.
Kopecky will skate with center Dave Bolland
and right wing Kris Versteeg on the third line.
"That's the case tonight, Laddy's not playing," Quenneville confirmed following his team's skate. "We still expect him to play (in the series) and he's progressing well, but Kopey's in there."
Ladd has 2 goals in 16 playoff games, logging over 13 minutes each game while ranking third on the team with 36 hits. Kopecky, who has been a healthy scratch the last five playoff games, has 3 goals and a plus-2 rating in 11 postseason matches for the Hawks.
"It's tough to lose Laddy, but Kopy is a great player as well," Bolland said. ""He's a big body with some nice hands on him. He's a good shooter so we'll utilize him. It'll be different having someone else come in since we've played with Laddy for most of the playoffs; we'll have to get into a rhythm.
"Kopy brings a nice shot and a big body (6-foot-3, 203 pounds)."
Meanwhile, Flyers goalie Brian Boucher, who exited the early stages of the second period of Game 5 against the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, will return to the lineup as Michael Leighton's backup.
"The team needed to do their part in order for me to come back, so they did a great job in the last round," Boucher said following his team's practice Saturday. "I'm just excited to be back for this great experience, to be part of the Stanley Cup Final and I'm happy to be a part of it."
"I'm happy that he's back," Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said. "You never want to see anybody out with injury but to get a goaltender who really carried us down the stretch and got us through the first round, is great. When you put in a whole season's worth of work, you don't want to be sitting out the Final, so it's nice to get him back."
Boucher practiced for the fourth-straight day on Saturday since suffering his left knee injury on May 10 at TD Garden in Boston. Boucher played a major role in the Flyers even earning a playoff berth following a shootout victory over the New York Rangers on the last day of the regular season before eliminating the New Jersey Devils in the opening round in five games.
Boucher is 6-4 with a 2.33 goals-against average, .915 save percentage and one shutout for the Flyers this postseason. Leighton has been one of the League's finest success stories since filling in for the injured Boucher, leading all playoff goalies with a 1.45 GAA, .948 save percentage and three shutouts. He's 6-1 in eight appearances and needs just one more shutout to equal Hall of Famer Bernie Parent for the franchise record of four in one playoff season.
"I'm pumped and happy to see him around in practice and be ready just in case, because you never know," Flyers forward Ian Laperriere said. "He's a big part of why we're here. He played unbelievable against Jersey, played well against Boston. He's a huge part of where we and everyone is happy to see him out there."Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
Author: Mike G. Morreale | NHL.com Staff Writer