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Chicago Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville talks to his players during the third period of Game 5 of an NHL hockey Western Conference second-round playoff series against the Vancouver Canucks Sunday, May 9, 2010, in Chicago. The Canucks won 4-1

Nam Y. Huh/AP

One of the trademarks of NHL playoff hockey is how rarely teams actually practice at this time of year.

Rest trumps all, and so on Monday, the Chicago Blackhawks did what they always do at this time of year - they made a handful of players, plus coach Joel Quenneville available in advance of their flight, via private plane to Vancouver, at a hangar just north of O'Hare, where reporters gathered in a tight VIP meeting room to direct questions at the chosen few.

Meanwhile, the rest of the players were spared the need to do interviews. Two vets, defenceman Brian Campbell and centre John Madden, did lengthy chats postgame Sunday; Madden was especially good, talking about Vancouver's defensive tactics, something his background in New Jersey makes him eminently qualified to do.

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But the overriding tone of yesterday's availabilities was how little carryover there was from one game to another in the playoffs - especially now and especially when the teams are so closely matched.

You can prepare and game plan all you want, but there's no way to predict that Blackhawks' goalie Antti Niemi would commit an error on an early shot by Christian Ehrhoff that effectively changed everything - relaxed the Canucks, and put some doubt in the Blackhawks' minds.

Chicago had difficulty penetrating the Nashville Predators' defensive posture for a time in the last round, but in Game 6, the two teams spent the first period channelling the 1980s Oilers, scoring seven goals, and then they shut it down again.

With a 3-2 series lead, Chicago still has a little margin of error left over; Vancouver none; and if it goes seven, no one will be happier than the San Jose Sharks, who were the first team to escape the opening round; and are now sitting back, healing and resting, awaiting the winner of Vancouver-Chicago, as the first team to advance out of the second round as well.

Meanwhile, Quenneville said the team packed with a view to moving on to San Jose and not coming home for a seventh game, something nobody wants to risk. "We're packing in the hopes that we can go on from there," said Quenneville.

"At the end of the day, it'll be the same amount of trips. That's one way of looking at it - in a positive way. But certainly we did not want to go back there (Vancouver)."

Then there was this blunt assessment from winger Kris Versteeg: "You pack as if you're going to win - and that's what we expect to do."

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About the Author

Eric was the winner of the Hockey Hall Of Fame's Elmer Ferguson award for "distinguished contributions to hockey writing" in 2001. A graduate of the University of Western Ontario's grad school of journalism, he began covering hockey in 1978 and after spending 20 years covering the NHL and the Calgary Flames, joined The Globe in 2000. More


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