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Blackhawks vets Andrew Brunette, Jamal Mayers and Sean O’Donnell relish shots at Cup

Getting chance Stanley Cup “means everything” veteran Andrew Brunette. |  Bruce Bennett~Getty Images

Getting a chance at the Stanley Cup “means everything” to veteran Andrew Brunette. | Bruce Bennett~Getty Images

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Updated: May 14, 2012 8:22AM

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Andrew Brunette calls it the “evolution of a hockey player.”

The shift in focus from goals and assists and securing your next contract to weighing offers from teams for the chance to win a championship.

At 38, Brunette is in the postseason for the fifth time in his 16-year career and first since 2008. Thursday, before Game 1 of the Blackhawks’ first-round series against the Phoenix Coyotes, he reflected on how few opportunities a player actually gets to compete for the Stanley Cup.

“Hindsight’s 20/20, but when you’re in the moment you don’t really see it that way,” Brunette said. “When you’re younger you don’t worry about how many shots you have left at it.”

At this point in his career, the opportunity to lift the Cup “means everything” to Brunette, who along with 14-year center Jamal Mayers and 17-year defenseman Sean O’Donnell joined the Hawks last summer specifically for the chance to win.

“Early in your career you don’t think it’s that big of a deal, and all of a sudden you get late in your career without getting into the playoffs and you start to think, ‘Geez,
I wish I had cherished it more early,’ ” Brunette said. “It’s the best time of the year to be playing.”

O’Donnell won the Cup with the Anaheim Ducks in 2007. Brunette and Mayers are still chasing the chance to get their hands on Lord Stanley’s chalice.

The closest both have come was the conference finals — Brunette with the Minnesota Wild in 2003, and Mayers in 2001 as a member of Joel Quenneville’s St. Louis Blues.

Quenneville and assistant coach Mike Kitchen where a big part of why Mayers wanted to come to the Hawks. But the chance for a more expanded role than he had with the San Jose Sharks and the ability to compete for a title also loomed large in his decision.

“I realize where I am [in my career], although I do feel like I have a lot of hockey left,” Mayers said. “I realize that the opportunities to compete for the Cup are few and you want to take advantage of those. At the same time you want to enjoy the process and just go out and play.”

Striking that balance is something all three have sought. But now that the regular season has given way to the playoffs, the scales are starting to tip.

“You’d just like to try and win one more time,” O’Donnell said. “[You want to] put yourself in a situation that you’re on a team that has a chance to win one more.”

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