CHICAGO -- After Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews picked up his third penalty in less than six minutes Thursday night, defenseman Brent Seabrook skated over and settled him down while he sat in the penalty box.
The normally staid Toews came a little unglued in the second period of Game 4 in Chicago's Western Conference Semifinal against the Detroit Red Wings, especially after the first infraction, a high-sticking call he adamantly disputed, resulted in what turned out to be the winning goal in a 2-0 result.
After picking up another high-sticking call for his third straight penalty -- this one much more blatant -- Toews angrily headed toward the box while Seabrook, who's had his own struggles, took action.
"He looked frustrated and I don't know if that was a reason for the penalties," said Seabrook, whose ice time has dropped dramatically the past two games. "It was a little bit of bad luck with his stick. I just tried to calm him down and we need him. He's the best player on the team and our leader. If the rest of the group sees him like that it's going to trickle down.
"We need him to be focused and ready and I just told him to sit down and take a couple of deep breaths and get ready to be back out there because we need him."
Truth be told, the Blackhawks need both of them plus a host of other "core group" stars left over from their 2010 Stanley Cup championship team if they're going to escape from a deep hole in this best-of-7 series.
The Red Wings hold a 3-1 lead with a chance to clinch it Saturday at United Center (8 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, RDS), and the focus is still squarely on Toews and Seabrook, who haven't had the kind of production that's expected.
It's not for lack of effort, but the questions were fired at them anyway Friday afternoon after an optional practice at United Center.
"I understand what happened in the second period wasn't a good thing and I don't attribute it to me losing my temper," Toews said. "I think obviously I was a little bit careless with my stick and unfortunately it cost me and it cost our team, but I think we're looking to have that controlled emotion as a team."
The Blackhawks have scored two goals in the past three games. Toews has no goals and three assists in the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs, one assist against Detroit. He didn't take the easy way out when asked if he was being unfairly spotlighted for his team's offensive woes.
"I think when things go well for our team, I sometimes get maybe more credit than I deserve," Toews said. "Same goes the other way. When we don't play as good as we can and we don't win games, the same thing goes for me. I understand that's part of it and our [best] players need to be our best players. We need to lead and we need to grab the rope and start pulling for the rest of the guys, and it starts with myself."
Using far fewer words, Seabrook said basically the same thing.
After first declining to discuss his diminished playing time the past two games, he was asked if this series has been a struggle for him individually.
His answer: "Yep."
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville hinted there may be changes coming in Chicago's defensive pairings. He split them midseason before a game in Detroit and has kept them that way until now, with Duncan Keith and Seabrook split up.
Now, after shaking up the forward lines for Game 4, there's no telling what combinations the Blackhawks will use up front, on the blue line or on special teams.
Corey Crawford is expected to get the start in net.
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