When the Chicago Blackhawks take the ice for Game 2 of the Western Conference final, there could be a new face in the lineup.
After questions about the strength of Chicago’s defensive depth following Game 1’s 4-1 loss to the Anaheim Ducks, defenseman Kyle Cumiskey was practising alongside Johnny Oduya during Monday’s skate. If Cumiskey enters the lineup, though, it likely means that David Rundblad will be watching from the sidelines.
Both Cumiskey and Rundblad were forced into the spotlight this post-season following the devastating ankle injury suffered by Michal Rozsival. The veteran blueliner fractured his ankle after falling awkwardly during Game 4 of the second round, meaning for Game 1 of the Western Conference final the Blackhawks needed to find someone to fill his spot.
Rundblad, who played 49 games during the regular season, got the initial call to fill Rozsival’s spot on the blueline, but it seems his play didn’t inspire confidence in coach Joel Quenneville. In Game 1, Rundblad skated 10:47 with most of his playing time coming with Duncan Keith as his partner, but he was on the ice with Oduya when Anaheim’s Kyle Palmieri scored what eventually stood as the game-winning goal.
Taking Rundblad out for Cumiskey doesn’t necessarily change the makeup of the defense or give Chicago the veteran presence that they had with Rozsival, but it has appeared throughout the season that Quenneville has a bit more confidence in Cumiskey’s ability. Over Rundblad’s 49 games in Chicago, he logged an average of 12:47 on ice, while Cumiskey saw 30 seconds more per game in the regular season. Cumiskey also has a deeper history with Quenneville, having played under him in Colorado from 2006-07 to 2007-08.
The Blackhawks have to hope to get significant minutes out of whichever defenseman they plan to play in Rozsival’s spot as, before the injury, he was skating more than 17 minutes per game. In Game 1, Rundblad played less than 11 minutes, putting the pressure on Keith, Oduya, Brent Seabrook and Niklas Hjalmarsson to pick up the slack.
The hope is also that either Rundblad or Cumiskey can play a steady enough game to allow for the Blackhawks to run five defensemen. Trade deadline acquisition Kimmo Timonen, the 40-year-old veteran blueliner who missed the entire season before coming to Chicago, has skated little more than nine minutes per game in the post-season and was used sparingly in the Blackhawks’ Game 1 loss, seeing just 5:15 of ice time.
In addition to the potential lineup change for Game 2, the Blackhawks have also recalled center Phillip Danault, winger Ryan Hartman and defensemen Ville Pokka and Viktor Svedberg from the AHL’s Rockford IceHogs.