LOS ANGELES — Even a veteran coach has to admit his feelings before a potential Stanley Cup playoffs elimination game.
“I get a little nervous,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said Friday night at the Staples Center, a few hours before the puck drops against the Kings in the Western Conference finals. “I get a little excited. Probably more excited than nervous.”
The Blackhawks already staved off elimination on Wednesday at the United Center with a 5-4 double overtime victory in Game 5 to close to within 3-2 in the series. Now, they’re back in Los Angeles, where they dropped Games 3 and 4.
“They play well in their building,” Patrick Sharp said. “They play well on the road as well. It’s a tough place to play. I think we can do some things better tonight than we did in the previous two games in this building. Having said that, it comes down to executing on the ice.”
The Hawks have said the pressure is on the Kings, but they’re putting pressure on themselves too.
“We’re playing for our lives tonight,” Duncan Keith said, “so we’re going to need our best game of the year.”
The prevailing theme through the series has been the Hawks inability to hold a lead.
“They’re a real good hockey team,” Quenneville said. “Give them credit. They can score goals. They got a spread-out offense and active defense. They can score with any shift at any time.”
Quenneville stressed to the defense the need to help goaltender Corey Crawford, who has given up 17 goals in the last four games.
“We have to take care of the front of our net, take care of cleaning up goals that are preventable,” he said. “I think that’s what hurt us in the series.”
With a victory the Hawks will return to the United Center in a winner takes all battle to advance to the Stanley Cup finals.
“It’s obviously a huge game for everybody,” Quenneville said. “Everybody’s excited about it. Let’s play the right way.”
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