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Seabrook cleared to play in Game 6

by Brian Hedger
CHICAGO -- The only thing Brent Seabrook wanted from his Chicago Blackhawks teammates was one more chance to get back on the ice this season, preferably against the rival Vancouver Canucks.

Wish granted.

Seabrook, who sat out the previous two games of this Western Conference Quarterfinal series with an upper-body injury believed to be a concussion, will be back on the ice for Game 6 on Sunday night at the United Center. After watching his teammates rally for a pair of blowout wins to cut the Canucks' lead in the series to 3-2, Seabrook got clearance on Sunday morning to get back into the fray.

"Yeah, he's playing," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said on Sunday morning. "He's an important part of our team. His makeup and his leadership qualities are a big part of our team. Even though he wasn't playing, you could feel his presence around the locker room and the guys. They competed for him in ways that was nice to see he's still part of our team. Now, the fact that he gets to play again is going to help us out in a lot of ways."

Quenneville didn't say who Seabrook would replace in the lineup, but did say it would be nice from both a strategic and emotional standpoint to get No.7 back on the ice.

"(He) assumes a lot of quality ice time and in all situations, as well," Quenneville said. "(He) gives us some size and some presence back there and has got a big shot offensively. It's nice to have him back."

Seabrook was injured by a pair of big hits in the second period of Game 3 by Raffi Torres, including one that flattened the 6-foot-3, 218-pound Hawks blueliner behind the Chicago net while he was looking behind him for the puck.

Torres was assessed an interference minor but was not suspended, despite his shoulder striking Seabrook's head. Seabrook initially said he'd be ready to play in Game 4, but experienced some symptoms later that day and was unable to play in Game 4 and Game 5.

The Hawks used the situation as a motivator to claw their way back into the series. Seabrook made the trip to Vancouver for Game 5, but when he was ruled out the Hawks got another emotional boost. Seabrook's good friend and defense partner Duncan Keith led the way in a 5-0 rout by scoring 2 goals and adding a pair of assists, while Seabrook's sweater hung inside his locker as a reminder.

"He just wanted another chance to play," Hawks defenseman Chris Campoli said on Sunday morning. "We wanted to give it to him. Obviously we had to find a way to stay alive in the series and it's not easy playing without one of your best players. He was open about getting another chance and so far we've been lucky enough to give it to him."

Seabrook's size and grit also played into it, according to Quenneville.

"Physically he's able to, I don't know if the word's 'fight back,' but withstand that type of hit," Quenneville said. "At the time, we were hoping he was OK to play the following game, but there's processes you've got to go through. At the same time, the one thing you don't have to worry about is his toughness. It's there."

It could also be another emotional lift for the Hawks in a different way than his absence gave them. Chicago also got a similar jolt from the return of center Dave Bolland in Game 4, after he missed the first three games of this series and the last month of the regular season with a concussion.

"I think the guys really get excited when they see a Bolly return and a Seabs return, seeing  them around and knowing they can help us," Quenneville said. "I think they get a boost off it."
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