The healing power of Lourdes has nothing on the Stanley Cup final, it would seem.
With the Stanley Cup potentially on the line Monday night, it looks as if the teams' two injured stars, Chicago Blackhawks centre Jonathan Toews and Boston Bruins centre Patrice Bergeron, could both be ready to play in the sixth game of a series which the Blackhawks lead 3-2.
Toews, the Blackhawks captain, simply announced he was in the line-up after skating with his teammates and looking good in drills. He missed the third period of Saturday’s game, won 3-1 by Chicago, with an undisclosed upper-body injury.
“I feel great,” said Toews. “The coaches were just being a little cautious in not letting me get back on the ice in the third period the other night, but we’ve gotten to the point where I’m ready to go again and I’ll be ready to play tonight.”
When asked if it would take a lot for Toews not to play in a game in which the Stanley Cup could be awarded, he answered: “That’s for sure, that’s for sure. But I guess the way I felt out there, I would say it’s the best morning skate I’ve had all series. I’m excited. There’s no question about where I am physically.”
Bergeron, meanwhile is dealing with an undisclosed injury and didn’t take the pre-game skate, but coach Claude Julien said he would take the warm-ups and was “confident” that he would be ready to play tonight. In his French press conference, Julien went even further and said:"Patrice va jouer ce soir. C'est mon feeling." (Patrice will play tonight. That’s my feeling.)
If Bergeron can’t play, then the Bruins could turn to either Jay Pandolfo or Jordan Caron, both of whom would be making their playoff debuts this post-season.
“I know Pandolfo is going to be in the warm-up tonight for sure, so is Caron, so we're going to have a few guys out there,” said Julien. “And Bergeron is going to be out there, as well. If Bergeron can't go, then I have got some decisions to make. Again, there's a little bit more in the thought process than just picking a guy. I need to make decisions based on what the needs will be for tonight's game.”
Those needs may in part be dictated by ice conditions, which could be an issue again, because of the humidity and the soaring temperatures. The humidity affected the ice considerably in the third game, won 2-0 by Boston, and could be a factor again, according to Julien.
“With some fans in the building tonight, it'll get obviously warmer,” said Julien. “I thought the ice this morning was in pretty good shape, and they've done a good job. Walking in here yesterday with 90-plus degrees it was nice and cool in the arena.
“But those doors are going to open I would imagine and some of the heat will come in. But those are conditions that you have to play with at this time of year. Everybody has been through it, and two teams are going through the same conditions. Both teams are going to tell you the same truth: keep the game simple and try and avoid those mistakes from overhandling pucks in those kind of ice conditions.”
Perhaps Bruins forward Milan Lucic summed it up best for both teams, who are still playing on June 24, which matches the latest game ever played in NHL history (the deciding game of the 1995 Stanley Cup final between the New Jersey Devils and the Detroit Red Wings).
“You don’t come this far to lose, right?,” said Lucic. “It would have been easy to quit two months ago against Toronto, but we dug deep to get through Game 7 and there’s no reason we can’t find something extra to get through this one.”