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Blackhawks try to avoid rust during long layoff

by Brian Hedger /

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks have experienced quite a bit in the Stanley Cup Playoffs over the past seven seasons, but they're adding to it this week during an extended layoff between series.

The Blackhawks will have had nine days off before they play the Anaheim Ducks on Sunday in Game 1 of the Western Conference Final at Honda Center (3 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVA Sports). They have not played since completing a sweep of the Minnesota Wild in the second round at Xcel Energy Center last Thursday.

Chicago has practiced three of the past six days, including Wednesday, and is trying to avoid any rust that might build up prior to the start of the conference final.

"I think there is such a thing as momentum," Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane said. "That's one of the biggest things in [the] playoffs, whether it's through a series or from series to series. I think for all of us in here, we probably would've rather started the series earlier than it's supposed to be, but what are you going to do? That's the way the schedule is. You've kind of got to adjust with it, and I think we'll use the time off the right way and make sure we're ready for the first game."

The practice Wednesday was the Blackhawks' longest of the season. They stayed on the ice a little more than an hour and spent the final portion on battle drills, which are conducted at one end of the rink and require physical play along the boards.

"Ten days between games is a long stretch, and you want to make sure that you try different things and make sure you're stimulated coming into it, as well," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. "We try to simulate as much game situations as we can and try to get the pace to be game situational, and work off of that. It's something you really don't have a format that you can [use] to try to get yourself in the situation where [you're] game-ready Game 1."

Forward lines during practice didn't change from the second round or the two previous practices, meaning Kris Versteeg still was outside the lineup. After playing all six games of the first round against the Nashville Predators, Versteeg missed the first two games against the Wild because of a lower-body injury and the final two as a healthy scratch.

Quenneville is expected to keep the same lineup for Game 1 against Anaheim as he used in Game 4 against Minnesota.

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