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Blackhawks, minus Seabrook, try to halve Blues' lead

by Brian Hedger


(St. Louis leads best-of-7 series, 2-0)


Big story: An already-intense rivalry got ratcheted up toward the end of Game 2 in this Western Conference First Round series when Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook injured St. Louis Blues captain David Backes with an illegal hit.

"It's not retaliation," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said Sunday of St. Louis' come-from-behind 4-3 overtime win. "We want to win, they want to win. [The] game's full of emotion. It's about playing your best. Whatever you have to do, you have to do. It's a nasty, physical, intense series. That's what playoff hockey's about. I'm sure they've got video of our guys taking runs at their guys. We've got video of their guys taking runs at us. It's the price you pay to win at this time of the year, especially when you have two really good teams going at it. This is what happens."

Not only are the defending Stanley Cup champions facing a two-game deficit in the series, but the Blackhawks will be without Seabrook, who was suspended Sunday for three games for the charging major against Backes. They're no strangers to coming back from tough odds in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but winning Game 3 will be critical for the Blackhawks' title-defense hopes.

Team Scope:

Blues: It was announced Monday that Backes won't be in the lineup for Game 3, a significant blow to the St. Louis lineup.

"He's out, won't play today," said coach Ken Hitchcock, who would not elaborate further on Backes' condition. "He's our No. 1 center, he plays the most minutes on the hockey club, he plays in every situation. It has to be shared. Not one person's going to be able to take the slot. We don't have that.

"We don't have somebody that can come in and say, 'OK, you've got to take his minutes.' Somebody's going to have to do extra work killing penalties, other people have got to be added, we're going to have to do a better job on faceoffs, other people are going to have to step up and take faceoffs, especially on the right side. There's like anything else: What would Chicago be like with losing [Jonathan] Toews? For us, Backes is Toews."

Hitchcock labeled forward Vladimir Sobotka as "average" after an open-ice, knee-to-knee collision that sent Chicago forward Bryan Bickell to the penalty box a couple minutes before Seabrook hit Backes.

Blackhawks: Just as Chicago anticipated, the physicality is at a high level and might get cranked up even more Monday at United Center. That style most likely favors the Blues, who are known for doling out punishing body checks and swarming the puck on defense.

The Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup twice in four seasons by playing more of a puck-possession game. Their game usually centers on dominating time in the offensive zone, playing keep-away with the puck and crashing the net hard for rebounds or loose pucks.

That style has been missing too often in the first two games.

"I think we've done a decent job with getting chances, but we're playing a little too much on the perimeter," forward Brandon Saad said Sunday. "If we get pucks to the point and get guys to the net, then pucks seem to find their way in. So, from an offensive [point of view], being a forward, we've got to do that more often."

Not having Seabrook will hurt. He's Chicago's biggest defender, has a hard shot and is one of the best transition passers from the defensive zone. Without him, look for Sheldon Brookbank to enter the lineup.

Who's hot: Blues forward Vladimir Tarasenko has a goal in each game of the series, including the power-play goal with 6.4 seconds left in regulation in Game 2 that forced overtime, after missing the final 15 games of the regular season. ... Saad had an assist in Game 1 and two assists in Game 2 for the Blackhawks.

Injury report: St. Louis center Patrik Berglund (upper body) will return. … Chicago reports no injuries.

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