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Blackhawks may make change on defense for Game 2

by Shawn Roarke /

ANAHEIM -- The Chicago Blackhawks may make a change on their blue line for Game 2 of the Western Conference Final against the Anaheim Ducks.

Although Chicago coach Joel Quenneville refused to confirm it Monday, multiple signs point to journeyman Kyle Cumiskey replacing David Rundblad, who had a rugged Game 1 as a replacement for injured Michal Rozsival.

Game 2 is Tuesday at Honda Center (9 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports). Anaheim leads the best-of-7 series 1-0 after winning 4-1 on Sunday.

"Could play," Quenneville said of Cumiskey after practice at Honda Centre on Monday. "He'll be excited about getting in the lineup. He brings some speed, quickness. I think he defends with his quickness in the puck area. I think offensively he's got some pace to his game as well. I think it will be a good opportunity for him to come in and help us and bring some quickness to our team."

Defense was an issue for Chicago on Sunday because the minutes were spread so unevenly. Duncan Keith played 28:25; Rundblad played 10:47 in his playoff debut and veteran Kimmo Timonen played 5:15

To compound matters, Anaheim is a team with a heavy forecheck. In Game 1, the Ducks took every opportunity to hit Chicago's defenseman, the first salvo in a series-long plan to wear down the minute-eaters on the blue line.

That means it's up to Quenneville to try to spread the minutes more evenly among his defenders in an effort to limit the wear and tear on the players he leans on heavily in close games.

Cumiskey, who joined the Chicago organization this season after a two-season stint with Modo in Sweden, could be his latest attempt to solve the problem. Cumiskey has played seven games with Chicago this season, though none since Feb. 27. He spent the majority of the season with Rockford of the American Hockey League, scoring two goals and finishing with 20 points in 54 games.

Cumiskey, 28, spent parts of five seasons with the Colorado Avalanche before his time in Sweden. He was recalled April 12 as a depth player.

"If I get a chance, I'll just try to keep it simple [out] there," Cumiskey said. "Get the puck out of my own zone with speed, make a quick first pass."

Those are things that Rundblad could not do well in Game 1, a 4-1 victory by Anaheim. On the game-opening goal, Rundblad failed to clear the zone and then was pushed into the line of vision of goalie Corey Crawford as the point shot from Hampus Lindholm arrived. On the second-period goal by Kyle Palmieri that made it 2-0, Rundblad coughed up the puck up behind his own goal line and then did not follow Palmieri to the front of the net.

"It's not the easiest spot to be in," said Rundblad, who was the final defenseman off the ice Monday, usually a tell-tale sign that a scratch in the next game is imminent. "Obviously, I played as good as I can [Sunday]. It was a tough game for me. I want to play, I always want to play."

The Chicago defense was a bit top-heavy at the start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs and was knocked further askew with the loss of Rozsival, who broke his left ankle during Game 4 of the second-round sweep of the Minnesota Wild.

Rozsival was the playing the minutes of a No. 5 defenseman, but was a safety valve who could be used when needed to ease the burden placed on the top-four of Keith, Brent Seabrook, Niklas Hjalmarsson and Johnny Oduya.

Timonen, obtained from the Philadelphia Flyers on Feb. 27, is playing an average of less than 10 minutes per game. He admitted Monday that it is difficult to play such limited, sheltered minutes after being a workhorse throughout his lengthy NHL career.

"It is tough, but once you go out there you try to do your job as good as possible and not make mistakes," said Timonen, who is playing in his final NHL season. "I don't want to go in there, play five minutes and then make a ton of mistakes. Whatever the role is, I'm going to do it."

Chicago has been through numerous ups and downs during the past seven seasons, five of which have seen them reach at least the third round of the playoffs. Injuries have happened and unsung players have stepped up in the past. The culture that has been created during that run of excellence demands that they believe Cumiskey will be the next guy to step up.

"I think that's what it takes to win in the playoffs and win a Stanley Cup is some guys like that paying the price, that go a couple of months unheard of but they're working just as hard as anybody and they're contributing just as much as anybody," captain Jonathan Toews said. "So for guy like Kyle, yeah, absolutely, he's an amazingly skilled player. If he happens to get the chance to step in there's no doubt the confidence in this room and we have confidence in a guy like that, so we'll see what happens."

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