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Blackhawks benefit from passing on practice

by Brian Hedger

CHICAGO -- The learning process never ends for coaches, and Joel Quenneville of the Chicago Blackhawks is no exception.

He said he learned something the past couple of years that seems to pay dividends for the defending NHL champions during tough stretches of the regular season and Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Less practice between games, Quenneville noticed, is actually a good thing.

That's why it wasn't surprising Saturday to see the Blackhawks doing calisthenics in the hallway outside the locker room at United Center instead of skating on the ice. They're saving their energy for Game 6 on Sunday at United Center against the St. Louis Blues (3 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, RDS), leading the best-of-7 Western Conference First Round series 3-2 with a chance to close it out.

"I think we've gone and progressed in series where, whether it was early in the playoffs or as you progressed, that in between game days, staying off the ice and [making] sure we're maxing out with our energy [on] game day is something we've looked at," Quenneville said. "I think the players ... we always say they don't want to practice anyways. And just having a non-productive practice sometimes can be deteriorating to your team game. So we try to have [it] when you're on the ice, to have a little bit of pace with [you]."

Prior to this series, Quenneville held practice three straight days. Aside from morning skates, the Blackhawks haven't practiced since.

Four of the five games have gone past regulation, which factored into that decision, plus the minutes for a some of the defensemen increased during a three-game suspension assessed to Brent Seabrook for an illegal hit in Game 2. Seabrook will return Sunday.

Quenneville handled it this way a year ago during a compressed regular-season schedule and the march to the 2013 Stanley Cup.

"Morning skates, you can't really get that same kind of pace, but when we do practice between games, hopefully we're going hard," he said. "But every other day [off the ice], that's been the trend we've had and the guys seem to like that schedule."

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