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Blackhawks' Brookbank solid filling in for Seabrook

by Brian Hedger

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."

In the past, Brookbank played some minutes with Keith sporadically. Helping him adjust more was playing almost all his games on the third pairing this season next to speedy, puck-moving defenseman Nick Leddy.

"They're both really good skaters," Brookbank said. "They get back to pucks so fast and everything like that. We're pretty fortunate here that we've got a lot of good [defensemen] to play with, so pretty much whoever you play with, it's a pretty good player."

Seabrook has two games left in his suspension for delivering an illegal high hit to Blues captain David Backes at 15:09 of the third period in Game 2 at Scottrade Center. Backes missed Game 3 because of an upper-body injury.

Rather than splitting up both of the top defense pairs, Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville opted to keep his shutdown pair of Johnny Oduya and Niklas Hjalmarsson together by slotting Brookbank into Seabrook's spot next to Keith.

The experiment went much better than when Brookbank filled in for Keith next to Seabrook a year ago in Game 4 of a Western Conference Semifinal series against the Los Angeles Kings. Keith served a one-game suspension then, which meant Brookbank was called to duty after not playing for about three weeks.

He played 12 shifts for 6:50 and finished with a minus-2 rating. This time there wasn't as much down time between starts.

"I don't want to make an excuse or anything like that, but it was a long break last time when I got in there [last year]," Brookbank said. "It was the longest break I'd ever had between games, so that maybe had something to do with it. I don't know. But I felt a lot better [Monday] night and it felt good to get that win."

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