The Blackhawks lead the best-of-7 series 3-2.
The Blackhawks lead the best-of-7 series 3-2.
After missing three games while suspended for an illegal hit in Game 2 of the Western Conference First Round series, Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook will return for Game 6 at United Center (3 p.m. ET, CBC, NBC, RDS). Seabrook is one of the best passing defenders on the Blackhawks, particularly on exits from the defensive zone with direct, accurate stretch passes.
He's also got a big shot from the point and isn't afraid to join the rush from time to time. Seabrook scored a goal and had an assist in each of the first two games against the Blues.
He said he learned something the past couple of years that seems to pay dividends for the defending NHL champions during tough stretches of the regular season and Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Less practice between games, Quenneville noticed, is actually a good thing.
CHICAGO -- Forward Ben Smith started this season seeking an everyday role for the Chicago Blackhawks. He wound up with a couple of important ones for the NHL's defending champions in the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The Blackhawks have a potential series-clinching game Sunday, and Smith's versatility has come in handy for coach Joel Quennveille.
With Chicago leading 3-2, Game 6 of the Western Conference First Round series against the St. Louis Blues is Sunday at United Center (3 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, RDS).
CHICAGO -- It's not really surprising anymore to see Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews named as a finalist for the Frank J. Selke Trophy, which is awarded annually to the NHL's best defensive forward.
That recognition year after year is a major accomplishment in the mind of the 25-year old, who was named a finalist Thursday after winning last season. It's the third time in the past four seasons Toews has been a finalist.
"You look at the other two guys, to be in company with those two players is a huge honor, two centermen that were [big] parts of their Stanley Cup-winning teams in the last couple of years," Toews said. "I guess to be compared to those players is what I'm going for as a hockey player. It's a huge accomplishment for me."
CHICAGO -- Joel Quenneville's penchant for mixing and matching forwards is well known by fans, players and opposing coaches.
In fact, whether he knows it or not, there is a commonly used nickname for the Chicago Blackhawks coach's line juggling that fans often use. They refer to it as the "Q line blender," and it's often operating, proverbially, on high speed.
This Western Conference First Round series, tied 2-2 between the Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues, is no exception. The "Q blender" is working hard as the best-of-7 shifts back to Scottrade Center for Game 5 on Friday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS2, FS-MW, CSN-CH).
After starting out placing Patrick Kane at right wing on the third line, Quenneville has since reunited him with captain Jonathan Toews' top line (in Game 3) then split them up again in the third period of Game 4 on Wednesday, a 4-3 Chicago victory that ended with Kane's goal in overtime.
"I think it's a feel thing," Quenneville said Thursday of his itchy trigger finger. "You go into the game and you have a couple of ideas if you don't like the way it looks. Sometimes certain guys are going better than other guys and maybe you give the certain guy a little bit more quality [time], maybe you take away a little here and there. You see how it works."
Keith was hit hard by St. Louis Blues forward Steve Ott near the boards in the defensive zone with 5:35 left in the third period of Game 3, but Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said his top defenseman is fine to play in a big Game 4 of a Western Conference First Round series on Wednesday (9:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS, FS-MW, CSN-CH).
Keith's ice time is up from the regular season for the second straight year, much how it was during the Blackhawks' run to the 2013 Stanley Cup, but if there's anybody who can absorb that much it's him.
"Well, he's a superhuman," Blackhawks defenseman Johnny Oduya said after the skate. "He has, obviously, physical abilities that a lot of guys don't have. He has that intensity and he can still match that with playing a lot of minutes. His lung capacity and ability to process oxygen is unbelievable. So being the skilled, competitive player that he is, and being able to have that physical edge too, I think that's why he's the top [defenseman] in the game."
CHICAGO -- Defenseman Sheldon Brookbank filled in admirably for the Chicago Blackhawks on Monday in a 2-0 victory at United Center in Game 3 of their Western Conference First Round series against the St. Louis Blues.
The victory pulled the defending Stanley Cup champions within 2-1 in the best-of-7 series heading into Game 4 Wednesday in Chicago (9:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS, FS-MW, CSN-CH), in which Brookbank will again take the place of suspended defenseman Brent Seabrook.
Playing alongside Duncan Keith on the top pairing, Brookbank played 14:32 and assisted on a goal by Jonathan Toews 4:10 into the game that wound up being enough to win. Brookbank blocked two shots in a solid performance.
"I'm not saying it's easy, but [Keith] makes it pretty easy on you," Brookbank said Tuesday. "He gets back there quick and makes a lot of good plays, and he closes on guys fast. So it makes my job easier."
During the morning skates on Monday, each team was still talking about a controversial hit on David Backes, the St. Louis Blues captain, by Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook during Game 2 on Saturday. The hit, with 4:51 remaining in the third period of Game 2, left Backes dazed and he needed help to leave the ice. He did not return to the game, which St. Louis won in overtime.
Backes will not play in Game 3 on Monday night (8:30 p.m. ET; CNBC, CBC, RDSI, FS-MW, CSN-CH). St. Louis leads the best-of-7 series, 2-0.
Seabrook was suspended three games by the Department of Player Safety.
Sunday, the Blues accused Blackhawk players of verbally taunting a clearly injured Backes. Monday morning, members of the Blackhawks spent time answering those charges.
Duncan Keith, who was on the ice when Backes was hit, would not confirm nor deny that he was among the players speaking to Backes. A microphone on the game coverage picks up some chirping, including the phrase "Wakey, wakey, Backes." The speaker is never identified, but several members of the blues attributed it to Keith, Seabrook's defense partner.
Brookbank will get his first taste of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs paired with Duncan Keith on the top defense unit for the Blackhawks, who face the St. Louis Blues on Monday at United Center in a Western Conference First Round series (8:30 p.m. ET; CNBC, CBC, RDSI, FS-MW, CSN-CH).
Chicago, the defending Stanley Cup champion, trails St. Louis 2-0 in the best-of-7 series and now faces an uphill climb without one of its top defenders. Brookbank (6-foot-1, 202 pounds) can replace some of the 6-3, 221-pound Seabrook's size and grit, but he knows filling all that's missing won't happen without help.
"No one's really going to replace [Seabrook]," Brookbank said. "He's one of the top [defensemen] in the League. As a group we're going to have to pick up the slack and just play a steady game out there."
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