ANAHEIM, Calif. – With David Rundblad having a rough day in his first career postseason game, there was a chance the Blackhawks would change things up defensively for Game 2.
Enter Kyle Cumiskey.
It looks like Cumiskey will play on Tuesday night when the Blackhawks face the Anaheim Ducks in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals. It’s an opportunity for Cumiskey, who was recalled – with Antti Raanta – right before the playoffs began. He was paired with Johnny Oduya during Monday’s practice drills.
“He'll be excited about getting in the lineup,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “He brings some speed, some quickness. I think he defends with his quickness in the puck area. I think offensively he's got some pace to his game as well. It will be a good opportunity for him to come in and help us and bring some quickness to our team.”
It’ll also be another defenseman with little postseason experience getting thrown in on a big stage. The 28-year-old Cumiskey has six NHL playoff games under his belt, and those were back in 2009-10 with the Colorado Avalanche.
And Cumiskey, like Rundblad, enters the lineup after not playing for a while. While he played in Rockford before being recalled in mid-April, Cumiskey’s last game with the Blackhawks was Feb. 27 against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
“Me and David, we haven’t played in a month. It’s a tough situation to get thrown into,” Cumiskey said. “It’ll be tough for me too; I just have to try to make the most of it.”
When Michal Rozsival suffered his fractured ankle earlier this month, the Blackhawks knew their defensive depth was going to be tested. Rundblad got the call for the start of this series and had a rough Game 1. Two of his passes/attempted clears ended up on Ducks players’ sticks, and not long after both the Ducks scored.
“Yesterday I wasn’t quick enough or hard enough, and those are the two things you have to do better if you’re going to play,” said Rundblad. “It’s the conference final [and] two good teams. It’s pretty tough to be up there. It’s a tough team to play against. But of course it was a little nervousness. That’s kind of natural.”
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Meanwhile, Kimmo Timonen played just over five minutes in Game 1. The veteran said it’s difficult to get into a rhythm when playing so sparingly.
“It is tough, but once you go out there you try to do your job as good as possible and not make mistakes,” he said. “I don’t want to go in there, play five minutes and then make a ton of mistakes. Whatever the role is, I’m going to do it. It’s not the best one, and I’ve never done it before, but I guess I had to play 40 years to see that.”
Quenneville said Timonen has “a valid point.”
“I think the more you play, the more effective you're in the game. You seem to have more confidence in a lot of areas,” Quenneville said. “I thought he started the game well yesterday. Got a little bit deeper in the game [he] didn't play much. But I didn't mind his game. We'll see how we'll go going forward. I thought he was all right yesterday.”
Be it Timonen playing a few more minutes or Cumiskey stepping in and doing that, the Blackhawks want to solidify things on their defense. Whether or not they rely on any Rockford players yet is undetermined; the Blackhawks recalled four IceHogs, including defensemen Ville Pokka and Viktor Svedberg on Monday afternoon. But for now it’s Cumiskey, who’s aware of the stage on which he’s getting this opportunity. It’ll be anxious but he’s ready to give it a shot.
“I’ll feel a little pressure for sure. It’s a huge game, you don’t want to make mistakes out there,” Cumiskey said. “At the same time you have to keep it in the back of your mind to stay relaxed, go out there and play your game.”