CHICAGO – The long wait for the Stanley Cup final is nearly over.
There was plenty of excitement at the United Center on Saturday morning as the Chicago Blackhawks and Philadelphia Flyers went through their morning skates ahead of Game 1. The players spent the past couple of days preparing for the final and were clearly excited it was only hours away.
“I’m anxious to get out there and play,” said Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp. “It’s been a long week of talking about the other team and what we’re going to do. I think once you get the first couple shifts under your belt everyone will calm down.”
The Blackhawks will be without forward Andrew Ladd, who hasn’t skated this week because of a suspected shoulder injury. Tomas Kopecky will be inserted into the lineup in his place and is expected to skate alongside David Bolland and Kris Versteeg.
Ladd’s injury isn’t serious.
“We still expect him to play (in the series),” said coach Joel Quenneville. “He’s progressing well.”
The Flyers will have a familiar face on the bench as goaltender Brian Boucher is healthy enough to return and will serve as the backup to Michael Leighton. Boucher sprained both knees in Game 5 of the second-round series against Boston.
Philadelphia coach Peter Laviolette won the Stanley Cup with Carolina in 2006 and senses the anticipation building in his dressing room.
“Everybody’s anxious,” said Laviolette. “Everybody wants the games to take place and the puck to drop … guys are ready for this, they want to play some hockey.”
He doesn’t have anything planned to try and relieve the tension.
“You can’t go in and wave a magic wand,” said Laviolette. “The hype of the game is here.”
A couple players on both teams admitted to having trouble sleeping on Friday night. The Blackhawks have moved into a local hotel for their pre-game nap on Saturday—a strategy that worked during a sweep of San Jose in the Western Conference final.
Both teams will be counting down the hours until puck drop.
“Everybody dreams of this moment for their whole life, if you’re a Canadian boy or an American boy that watches hockey,” said Bolland. “This is going to be a pretty good moment. I’m just going to take it in and have fun with it.”