BOSTON – Jamal Mayers skated with Patrick Sharp and Michal Handzus on Wednesday, knowing full well he was probably more morning-skate fill-in than Game 4 starter.
Mayers would love to be part of the Chicago Blackhawks’ lineup, be it tonight or any other. But the veteran’s limited playing time hasn’t diminished the respect he has earned from his teammates.
Marian Hossa is expected to play tonight, meaning Mayers’ second-line “status” from this morning was more just him filling in a morning vacancy. Still, despite not playing since the regular-season finale in St. Louis on April 27, Mayers will keep himself ready just in case.
“I’ve been ready for six weeks, however long it’s been. I expect (Hossa) to play and I’ll prepare like I’ll play, adjust if I’m not.”
Mayers has had to adjust to little playing time this season, but the 38-year-old’s voice of experience has been invaluable. When the Blackhawks were in that 3-1 hole to the Detroit Red Wings in the second round, Mayers was there to give a motivational speech.
“You just try to be authentic, be yourself,” Mayers said. “We have a special group in here. We’ve got guys who really care about each other and guys who want to win. We’re right there. Obviously people will say what they want, but these are two good teams and there can only be one winner.”
Coach Joel Quenneville, who’s known Mayers since both were with the St. Louis Blues in the late 1990s, early 2000s, said, “Jammer’s a great teammate. He does everything he can for the guys. He wants to get into the lineup in the worst way, and he does everything to prepare himself and keep himself ready.”
As far as those talks, Quenneville said Mayers is more than qualified to give them.
“He has pretty good insight as far as what the guys are thinking, whether it’s in between games, preparing for games. He’s a good mentor for the young guys as well. He’s got a pretty good awareness, not just to the game but also how people approach things.”
What’s next for Mayers after this season remains unknown. He was a great representative for the NHLPA during the lockout talks with the league, and was in the room when the PA and NHL finally came to an agreement in the early morning hours of Jan. 6. Whenever he does finish his career – and right now he’d like to keep playing hockey– he could see himself as part of the media. Coaching, however, is not part of his future plans.
“The time commitment away from your family is really not something for me,” Mayers said. “I want to stay in the game, maybe what you guys are doing. But my focus is playing hockey right now.”
Quenneville was with him on that coaching thing.
“I don’t want to encourage anyone to be a coach,” Quenneville said to laughs.