The wait is almost over and now the nerves take hold for both the Chicago Blackhawks
and Nashville Predators
Both teams went through their morning skates Friday without issue, met with reporters and now have a few more hours to wait before they get the League's last Stanley Cup Playoffs series started at what's expected to be a raucous, packed United Center.
The Hawks especially seemed antsy to drop the puck.
"It happens every year, whether it's the first game of the year or the first playoff game," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville
said. "That's kind of a common thing. You've got the jitters. You're anxious. You're nervous. You can't wait to get going. I think that's a good thing."
The Predators have played even less hockey than the Hawks in the past two weeks -- two games in the last 13 days to be exact.
"It happens every year, whether it's the first game of the year or the first playoff game. That's kind of a common thing. You've got the jitters. You're anxious. You're nervous. You can't wait to get going. I think that's a good thing."
-- Hawks coach Joel Quenneville
"We're well rested," Nashville center Steve Sullivan
said. "We're itching to go."
Predators coach Barry Trotz
said that banged-up winger Patric Hornqvist
and defenseman Denis Grebeshkov
are cleared to play.
For Chicago, Quenneville said that defenseman Brian Campbell
(broken collarbone, rib) will likely be out for the first couple games, but practiced with the team for the third-straight day. Hawks defenseman Kim Johnsson
(upper body) is still not close to returning, though.
As for the game, both teams plan to come out flying.
"We're a very aggressive team and we like to have the puck," said Hawks forward Troy Brouwer
, who will be playing for the first time after missing four games attending to his ill father in Vancouver. "We're going to come out hard right away and set the tone in our building. I'm sure during the anthem it's going to be pretty loud in here."
Overcoming that surge will be key for No.7 seed Nashville.
"Number 1, for us, is to make sure we're ready and not intimidated by the skill and speed of the Chicago Blackhawks
," Trotz said. "It's having the right mind-set. Our team, our organization, is not built on flash and dash. We keep it close to the vest and do our thing. We've got lofty goals and the lofty goal is to win the series."
Happy return -- Steve Sullivan
played for Chicago from 1999 to 2004 and helped the Hawks make the 2002 playoffs.
His time spent with Chicago, however, was largely in a losing effort. That's why he had kind words about what the Hawks have accomplished since being dealt away in 2004.
"What a great turnaround," said Sullivan, the Preds' co-leader in points with 51. "This city needed it. It's such a great city. It's such a great organization. It's got such a great history, that it deserves it. I'm very happy for both the organization and the city that they have a great hockey club."
Parity rules --
Nashville's Ryan Suter
thinks this week's plentiful "upsets" prove only how far the talent is spread throughout the League.
The Predators are the No.7 seed in the Western Conference, yet finished with 100 points.
"Every team is good," Suter said. "Every team brings something different. That's very important when it comes to the playoffs. Any team can win. It doesn't matter whether you're (seeded) first or last."
Just kidding -- Patrick Kane
has now added something to his "Joe Dirt" Playoffs mullet to send a message to those who think he's completely lost his mind.
"People were looking at me like, 'Is he serious with that haircut or is that just a joke?' " Kane said. "So, I just tried to add the steps in there to solidify that it is a joke."
Regardless, his mother and sisters were not pleased when they saw it.
"They were like, 'Oh, shave it off!' " he said.