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Former defensive partners Timonen, Coburn vying for Cup

CORRECTS PLAYER AT RIGHT TO KIMMO TIMONEN, INSTEAD OF KRIS VERSTEEG - Chicago Blackhawks center Antoine Vermette (80) and defenseman Kimmo Timonen (44) react after Vermette scored a goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning of Game 5 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final, Saturday, June 13, 2015, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)n

CHICAGO (AP) — Kimmo Timonen and Braydon Coburn played together for years in Philadelphia. Now the defensemen are competing against each other for the Stanley Cup title they were unable to win with the Flyers.

Timonen’s Chicago Blackhawks lead Coburn’s Tampa Bay Lightning 3-2 heading into Game 6 on Monday night. A victory would put Timonen’s name on the Stanley Cup for the first time in the final season of a solid 16-year NHL career.

“I can’t lie to you that I’m not dreaming about it,” Timonen said Thursday, before the Blackhawks beat the Lightning 2-1 on Saturday night for the series lead. “But you still have to focus on a daily basis and make sure you practice hard, just focus on task in hand.”

Timonen was traded by Nashville to Philadelphia in 2007 and played for the Flyers for seven seasons before he was shipped to Chicago in February. Coburn also was acquired by Philadelphia in a 2007 trade with the Atlanta Thrashers, and played for the Flyers for parts of nine years before he was traded to Tampa Bay on March 2.

Timonen, 40, and Coburn, 30, became friends while they were in Philly.

“I talked to him just a little bit before the final started,” Timonen said, “and you know obviously it’s kind of weird to see him in the other side of the rink, but it’s hockey. It happens.”

Timonen and Coburn each have dealt with health problems this year.

Timonen missed most of the season while recovering from blood clots in his leg and lungs. Coburn played just four games with the Lightning before he was sidelined with a broken foot that kept him out until the start of the playoffs.

“All he’s done is he’s just gotten progressively better with us,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said Friday. “The kid can skate. So that really fits the way we play. He defends. He does everything we were hoping he would.”

Here are a few more things to watch in Game 6 on Monday night:

AILING TRIPLETS: Nikita Kucherov was injured in Game 5 when he crashed into the Chicago net in the first period, breaking up Tampa Bay’s successful “Triplets” line. Center Tyler Johnson hasn’t taken a faceoff since Game 2, raising questions about his health as well.

Kucherov, who turns 22 on Wednesday, flew with the team to Chicago, and Cooper said he was “in considerably better shape today than he was last night.”

“We’ll have an optional skate tomorrow, so don’t read anything into it if he’s not on the ice,” Cooper said.

“To be honest, I thought there was a chance he was coming back last night,” Cooper added. “But it didn’t work out. These two days will give him the rest he needs.”

HOME SWEET HOME: The Blackhawks are going for their third Stanley Cup in the last six seasons, but they haven’t clinched the championship at home since 1938. Chicago has won 27 of its last 33 playoff games at the United Center.

“Obviously there’s a lot of buzz, a lot of excitement, a lot of things going on around the entire event,” captain Jonathan Toews said. “I think we’re just going to do our best as individuals to focus on our job as players and focus on the game and nothing more.”

OH SO CLOSE: It is only the second Stanley Cup Final to open with five consecutive one-goal games, joining Toronto’s 4-1 win over Montreal in the 1951 series. It is the first final in which neither team has enjoyed a two-goal lead through the first five games.

The Blackhawks have scored 11 of the 21 goals, and each team has 136 shots. The team with the most shots on goal has lost each game.

“That’s why this has been such a fun series to watch, because you never know what’s going to happen,” Cooper said.

MISSING STAMKOS: Tampa Bay star Steven Stamkos, who had a team-high 43 goals during the regular season, has just one assist in the series. He hasn’t scored since Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals against the New York Rangers.

The Lightning are 5-2 when Stamkos scores in the playoffs.

“We’ve struggled to score, obviously myself personally, as a team the last couple games,” he said. “We’ll find a way. There’s really no choice that we have. For me, definitely want to go out there and have my best game. I feel like the chances are there. You just got to keep working hard.”

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Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap

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