By Ben Meyer-Abbott
GLENDALE, Ariz. - Sean O'Donnell has bounced in an out of the lineup this season, but will take up the role of the Blackhawks' sixth defenseman Thursday night for Game 1 of their Western Conference Quarterfinal Series against the Phoenix Coyotes.
The 40 year-old defenseman played in 51 games this season games this season but was scratched for 11 consecutive games during much of March.
But down the stretch coach Joel Quenneville has leaned on the 17-year veteran's experience - playing him in six of the final seven games of the season - to bolster the Hawks' blue line as the team dealt with injuries to Steve Montador (concussion) and Sami Lepisto (leg) and Duncan Keith's five-game suspension for an elbow to the head of the Vancouver Canucks' Daniel Sedin.
"In this game you never know what happens, you always have to be ready," O'Donnell said. "We had a couple of injuries and then when Duncan [Keith] missed those five games I kind of looked at that as, 'Well, if I'm going to play this is kind of my audition or my tryout.' "
O'Donnell said his goal was to make the decision a tough one for the coaches and that has paid off. Now that he's in the lineup, though, O'Donnell isn't planning on any new tricks just because it's the playoffs.
"You do what got you here," O'Donnell said. "I'm not going to say, 'OK, It's Game 1 now, I'm going to start being offensive. Or I'm going to start pinching or I'm going to start doing this.'
"I've survived in this league for a while playing a certain style. Just because it's [the] playoffs I'm not going to change that."