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Brookbank to fill Seabrook's spot for Blackhawks

Monday, 04.21.2014 / 2:02 PM

By Brian Hedger - NHL.com Correspondent / Blues-Blackhawks series blog

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Brookbank to fill Seabrook's spot for Blackhawks

CHICAGO -- Sheldon Brookbank will draw the assignment of filling in for suspended Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook.

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."

Seabrook was suspended three games by the NHL on Sunday for an illegal hit on Blues captain David Backes at 15:09 of the third period in Game 2 at Scottrade Center. His absence creates a big hole in the lineup, literally and strategically.

It removes the Blackhawks' biggest, strongest defender and creates a void at the right point on the top power-play unit. Seabrook had two goals and two assists in the first two games until the controversial hit drove him and Backes (upper-body injury) from the game.

"It's obviously a big hole to fill," Keith said. "[Seabrook's] a big part of the team and he's played great in the first [two] games, scoring some big goals, but I think Brookbank's going to come in and I think we've got a lot of confidence in Brookie to come in and do the job."

Otherwise, according to the lines in the morning skate, Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville will ice the same lineup as how Game 2 finished, with forward Bryan Bickell at left wing on the top line with captain Jonathan Toews and right wing Patrick Kane again on the third line. Goaltender Corey Crawford will start after drawing some criticism for the goals he allowed late in regulation and overtime in the first two games.

"After a while I think you just almost stop caring and you're oblivious to whatever is said about you and you're going to deflect some of that negative attention from your teammates toward yourself," Toews said. "That's what Corey has done. He's an amazing goaltender, a great guy, a great teammate. I think we're all responding to that attitude. We know we've gotta be better in front of him. Some of those late goals that have gone in, [defensemen] are doing their jobs of blocking shots. As forwards we've gotta do the same to help our [defensemen] and help our forwards out."

Here is the projected lineup for the Blackhawks on Monday:

Bryan Bickell - Jonathan Toews - Brandon Saad

Patrick Sharp - Michal Handzus - Marian Hossa

Kris Versteeg - Andrew Shaw - Patrick Kane

Brandon Bollig - Marcus Kruger - Ben Smith

Duncan Keith - Niklas Hjalmarsson

Johnny Oduya - Michal Rozsival

Nick Leddy - Sheldon Brookbank

Corey Crawford

Antti Raanta

Scratched: Brent Seabrook (suspension), Jeremy Morin, Peter Regin, David Rundblad, Joakim Nordstrom

Injured: Nikolai Khabibulin (season-ending shoulder surgery)

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I don't have a crystal ball. Predicting is a real complicated thing. If we stay healthy, have enough depth and get the good goaltending we think we're going to have, you can go all the way. But a lot of things have to happen. There's going to be a lot of teams that think the same thing. Everyone made deals. We're all are optimistic about where we'll end up.

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