CHICAGO (AP) — Practice was long over when Joel Quenneville was stopped by two young boys waiting to get on the ice. They asked if he would sign their sticks, and the former NHL defenseman happily obliged.
The boys were still grinning after the coach had left the area. "I'm never going to play with this stick again," one said.
It seems as if everyone is having some fun during this playoff break for the Chicago Blackhawks.
Quenneville's team was back on the ice Saturday, continuing its preparations for a still-to-be-determined playoff opponent. If Detroit beats Anaheim in Game 7 of their series on Sunday night, the Red Wings will come to Chicago. If the Ducks win, San Jose will make the trip for Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals.
The Blackhawks' next game likely won't be until Tuesday at the earliest, so they're balancing the need for rest with the importance of keeping their focus during the layoff.
"It's about staying focused. It's about preparing mentally and physically," left wing Patrick Sharp said. "It's easy with time off to kick your feet up and watch other games and feel like you're ready to play, but I think you saw today, we haven't had a practice like that all season. A little more intense."
Quenneville called for more intensity in the wake of Chicago's five-game victory over Minnesota in the first round, and the Blackhawks went through a spirited scrimmage in their first practice since they closed out the Wild with a 5-1 victory on Thursday night.
"We want to get sharp. Hopefully we can elevate our pace of our team game," Quenneville said. "I loved today's practice. I thought that was the best we've practiced since the playoffs began."
With center Dave Bolland back on the ice and expected to play in Chicago's next game, Quenneville also is using the time off to take a look at different line combinations.
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