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Blackhawks' Timonen savoring chance to play in Final

by Corey Masisak

CHICAGO -- Kimmo Timonen spent most of the 2014-15 season not playing hockey, hoping he would recover from blood clots that threatened to end his career before he felt it was time.

When he was ready for a second chance at authoring his own ending to a fantastic career, he wanted to do it with the Chicago Blackhawks.

Timonen hasn't played in Chicago's past five Stanley Cup Playoff games but found out Wednesday that he'll be in the lineup for Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final, likely replacing Kyle Cumiskey against the Tampa Bay Lightning at United Center (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).

"I'm really excited," Timonen said. "I'm obviously going to trust my experience and my instincts, and try to help the team as good as I can. It feels great. I can't lie to you."

If Johnny Oduya can't play because of an upper-body injury, then both Timonen and Cumiskey likely will play.

Timonen, 40, averaged 11:58 of ice time in 16 regular-season games for the Blackhawks after arriving from the Philadelphia Flyers shortly before the 2015 NHL Trade Deadline. He wasn't ready to return from the blood clots, but he was close, and the Blackhawks felt he was a worthy gamble.

Despite his age, Timonen was fabulous for the Flyers in recent seasons, a puck-possessing, minute-munching star on a much-maligned defense corps. He has not been able to find that level for the Blackhawks, but they are banking on his experience and savvy to help them rally from a 2-1 deficit in this best-of-7 series.

"He gives us some predictability," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. "I think his coverage in the D zone, strength in the puck area. He's smart, experienced. I think he did a good job for us throughout the playoffs; gives him a chance to get in here in a good moment, a big moment. His reads and his position awareness and coverage in his own end will help him."

Timonen's ice time has dwindled during the postseason. Quenneville has a history of leaning on his top defensemen during the playoffs. He cut Nick Leddy's minutes back significantly in 2013 and 2014, and did so with Timonen as this postseason progressed.

Timonen has averaged 9:25 per game, which is inflated by playing 16:45 in a triple-overtime game.

"If you are out there all the time, you get the confidence and the puck comes to you. You can make plays and get confidence that way," Timonen said. "It is always easier. But the role is what it is, and we all have different roles. We all have to go out there and do the job, whatever the role is. It is not about me. It is about the team and winning tonight. That's the bottom line."

Chicago's top four defensemen have been playing even more since Michal Rozsival sustained a broken ankle in Game 4 of the Western Conference Second Round against the Minnesota Wild. Oduya's injury could limit his ability to play the 25-plus minutes he's been shouldering, so Timonen and rookie Trevor van Riesmdyk could see more action.

It will be a chance for Timonen to play a part in the Stanley Cup Final, something he was hoping so desperately for after the trade from Philadelphia happened. He had to wait for the opportunity, much like he did earlier this season.

"There's not many moments that I'm going to get like this. This is my moment," Timonen said. "I was hoping we could win four games straight and we could celebrate but it didn't happen. I was going to stay positive, work hard and try to be ready to go. That was my focus the last 10 days.

"It's looks like that moment is here."

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