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One Seabrook shines in NHL, another waits in wings

by Todd Kimberley
CALGARY — Don't look back, Satchel Paige once advised, because something may be gaining on you.

For Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook, that something looks a lot like his younger brother Keith.

Brent Seabrook, 24, is gaining widespread recognition this spring as a blue-chip National Hockey League shut-down defenseman.

All of which only fuels the fire for 20-year-old Keith — who, coincidentally enough, is trying to bring home Calgary's first Memorial Cup title since 1926 while big brother attempts to squash Cowtown's Stanley Cup dreams.

"We've had lots of battles playing hockey in the driveway" of their Richmond, B.C., home, Keith Seabrook told on Monday."  And just seeing the success he's had over the past couple of years has been motivation for me.

"We've always been competitive with each other," added Keith, a defenseman with the WHL's Calgary Hitmen and a second-round draft choice of the Washington Capitals in 2006. "I think that's the way it'll be for a while to come."

Now in his fourth NHL season, Brent Seabrook has become the lynchpin of the Hawks' defensive corps — a reputation that's been cemented by his play during this Western Conference Quarterfinal series against the Calgary Flames.

Brent, a Stanley Cup Playoffs debutant, entered Monday's Game 6 at the Pengrowth Saddledome leading all NHL players in ice time in the postseason, averaging 26 minutes and 33 seconds a game.

"He's been that kind of a player for us all year," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. "He and (defense partner Duncan Keith) have played matchup minutes, quality minutes.

"Offensively, we might have had three guys with 40-plus points at the back end (Brian Campbell, Keith and Cam Barker)," Quenneville added. "I don't think he was up at that level (Seabrook had eight goals and 26 points), but his effectiveness and the challenges he faced all year were high-end.

"Whether the pucks go in or not for him, we value his contribution for what he does defensively for us. Anything he does offensively is kind of a bonus."

That means Saturday's Game 5, a 5-1 Chicago victory that put the Flames on the ropes in this series, was a veritable bonanza. Seabrook rifled home a power-play goal that opened the scoring, then chipped in with two assists.

The former first-round draft choice also dished out a game-high five hits, leaving him second on the club in that category, with 19, and blocked shots, with 10, in this first-round affair.

"Whatever he gets, he deserves. He's a big force for us," Campbell said. "He's a big guy, very steady, great defensively, and adds a lot of offense as well.

"Sometimes it takes playoffs for guys to get recognized a little more. We've recognized him all year, but now he's getting recognized on a bigger scale."

Meanwhile, Keith Seabrook's Hitmen, who have rattled off 12 consecutive playoff wins to earn the WHL's Eastern Conference crown, will play either the Kelowna Rockets or Vancouver Giants in the best-of-7 league championship.

It remains to be seen next fall whether Keith earns a spot in the Capitals' starting lineup and makes the leap directly from the WHL to the NHL, like big brother did back in 2005.
For what it's worth, Brent has little doubt that will happen.

"He's started to get more chances and opportunities, and he's taking control of it and having fun and running with it," Brent said. "His best years are ahead of him, and he's going to do well."
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