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Joel Quenneville benches Kris Versteeg, plays Sheldon Brookbank

LOS ANGELES CA - MAY 30:  Goaltender Corey Crawford #50 Chicago Blackhawks is checked by Trevor Lewis #22 Los

LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 30: Goaltender Corey Crawford #50 of the Chicago Blackhawks is checked by Trevor Lewis #22 of the Los Angeles Kings in the first period in Game Six of the Western Conference Final during the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Staples Center on May 30, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images) ORG XMIT: 492396963

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Updated: July 1, 2014 6:59AM



LOS ANGELES — As expected, forward Kris Versteeg was benched for
Game 6 of the Western Conference final Friday night. But Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville pulled a surprise by replacing Versteeg with defenseman Sheldon Brookbank.

It was Brookbank’s first game in the conference final. He played six games in the previous two series — with no goals, two points and a plus-4 rating. The Hawks were 5-1 in Brookbank’s six games. He last played against the Wild in Game 6, which the Hawks won 2-1 in overtime to clinch the series.

Versteeg did not play the final 31 minutes of Game 5 after losing possession twice on a shift in which the Kings’ Dustin Brown scored to tie the game 3-3 in the second period.

“It was a tough night — the one shift particularly,” Quenneville said. “[He’s] just got to battle through it. It’s a competitive game — not a lot of time, not a lot of space. You’ve got to do whatever you can to advance the puck and contribute.”

Versteeg has one goal and three points with a minus-5 rating in 14 postseason games.

The Cup or bust

After winning the Stanley Cups in 2010 and ’13, the Hawks have reached a level where nothing less than the Cup will do.

“I don’t think we look at it as a success if we don’t win,” defenseman Duncan Keith said. “With the group of guys we have in here — especially our core guys — I think that’s the goal. We’ve done a few things right to get to this point, but I don’t think anyone in our room is satisfied just getting to the Western Conference finals.”

Hold that … lead

After losing a 3-1 lead in Game 5 before winning in overtime, the Hawks have lost a postseason-high four two-goal leads this year. They have lost 14 one-goal leads, also the most in the playoffs.

“They’re a real good hockey team. Give them credit — they can score goals,” Quenneville said. “They’ve got a spread-out offense and active [defense]. They can score on any shift at any time. But I think we’ve got to take care of cleaning up goals that are preventable. I think that’s what has hurt us in this series.”

Road warriors

The Hawks were just 2-6 on the road in this year’s playoffs entering Game 6. But they had won at least one road game in 12 consecutive playoff series. Against both the Blues and Wild, the Hawks lost the first two road games but won the third. Last season, the Hawks snapped the Kings’ 15-game home winning streak in Game 4 of the conference final.

Email: mpotash@suntimes.com

Twitter: @MarkPotash



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