Reporting from Chicago — Chicago Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane thought he was going to be a Philadelphia Flyer.
Flyers goaltender Michael Leighton actually was a Blackhawk, having made his NHL debut with Chicago in 2002-03 before bouncing around North America.
In every Stanley Cup finals there are odd connections between players and coaches and teams, and this season's finals between the Blackhawks and Flyers, which open Saturday at the United Center, has its share of twists and ties.
Chicago Coach Joel Quenneville guided Philadelphia defenseman Chris Pronger for eight seasons when both were employed by the St. Louis Blues, and Philadelphia Coach Peter Laviolette guided Chicago forward Andrew Ladd to the 2006 Stanley Cup championship when both were in Carolina. Players who led Canada to an Olympic gold medal in February will try to stop one another from achieving a rare Olympic-Stanley Cup double win in the same season: Chicago's Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook will be facing two Olympic teammates, Pronger and Flyers captain Mike Richards.
Kane and Leighton add to those ties. The Flyers had the league's worst record in 2007 and had a 25% chance of getting the first pick under the weighted draft lottery system, but the Blackhawks won the lottery and moved up from fifth to first. They grabbed the dynamic Kane, who this season ranked among the NHL's top 10 scorers with 88 points. The Flyers made winger James van Riemsdyk the No. 2 pick, and though he has great potential, he's still a work in progress.
"Philly's a great city, but I don't think it really compares to Chicago," Kane said Thursday. "At the time of draft lottery I thought Philly would get the first overall pick, but Chicago ended up getting it. I was lucky enough that I came here."
Kane said Van Riemsdyk "has got all the tools in the world to be an awesome player, and obviously I'm enjoying my time here in Chicago. Seems like it worked out for both of us."
Playing the Blackhawks in the finals is the realization of a dream for Leighton. Chicago drafted him in the sixth round in 1999, and he played 42 games for the Blackhawks over two seasons before they traded him to Buffalo. This is his second stint with the Flyers, who claimed him on waivers from Carolina in December.
"This is where I started my whole career. I'm excited to play here," he said. "Obviously I want to win. I want to beat them. Just like when I played against Carolina this year, when I got an opportunity to play them I wanted to win. It's deep down you have something to prove.
"I don't know too many of the players anymore. Just a few. … To be here facing them in the Stanley Cup finals is great."
Lapping it up
Hockey players' capacity to play through pain is legendary. Keith lost seven teeth when he was hit in the mouth by a shot Sunday, losing a few shifts but generating no complaints.
"I'm not feeling bad; missing some teeth," he said.
Flyers forward Ian Laperriere, whose scrappiness made him a huge fan favorite during eight-plus seasons with the Kings, matched Keith's dental destruction and can top that.
Laperriere needed about 100 stitches — and seven replacement teeth — after he blocked a shot in November. He refused to wear a visor and regretted that when he was hit in the face by a shot from New Jersey's Paul Martin in Game 2 of the Flyers' first-round victory over the Devils. He sustained a brain bruise and broken orbital bone and returned for Game 4 of the Flyers' e win over Montreal in the Eastern Conference finals, his right eyebrow bisected by more than 70 stitches.
"I got messed up this season quite a bit," he said.
But not enough to keep the 36-year-old Montreal native from playing in the first Cup finals of his 16-plus NHL seasons. Or for him to play it safe.
"There's no choice. Especially at this time of year," he said. "I can't try to be a 50-goal scorer. I never tried that; I won't try right now. And it's not like I've got 10 years left."
Laperriere is fondly remembered in Los Angeles, and Kings fan Karen Ellis of Sherman Oaks maintains a website, http://www.itsallaboutlappy.com, in his honor. Reaching the finals with the Kings, Laperriere said, would have been memorable.
"Everywhere I've been, that's my goal. I work all summer just to get to the big dance. You have to be lucky to be on the right team and hopefully this is my year," he said. "We have two teams left and I'm part of one of them, which is great.
"It would have been nice in L.A. I had nine great years there. I had a good time. Same with Colorado. It wasn't meant to be, I guess."
The mettle for a medal — and the Cup
Seven players in the finals have a chance to win an Olympic medal and the Stanley Cup in the same season.