CHICAGO -- Brent Seabrook
returned to the ice Tuesday and let his play do most of his talking.
In his first game back after suffering a head injury last week on an illegal hit by James Wisniewski
-- which earned Wisniewski an eight-game suspension -- Seabrook was a force during Chicago's 2-0 win against Phoenix at the United Center.
On the ice, he threw his body around without fear of re-injuring himself. In the locker room, some of his words were as pointed as his hip checks -- especially the ones about his health. By the time he was asked how he felt for the last time, Seabrook bit his lip trying not to boil over.
"It was good to get back out there and I was really excited," he said flatly. "I don't want to talk about it anymore. It's an injury. Sorry. It's in the past and I'm sick of hearing about it."
Blackhawks fans won't soon get sick of seeing Seabrook play like he did against the Coyotes. The win broke a points-tie with Phoenix atop the Western Conference standings, leaving the Blackhawks alone on top with 99 points -- one ahead of San Jose. Seabrook played a big part in the win, earning the third star of the game.
"He was playing and he wasn't shy. It wasn't easy to come back from a head injury like that, so it was good to see that he had the confidence to do that."
-- Jonathan Toews, on Blackhawks teammate Brent Seabrook
He logged 22:41, delivered three hits, blocked two shots and finished the game plus-1. He also cleared a couple of loose pucks from in front of the Hawks' goal, which helped goalie Antti Niemi
record his second shutout in the past three games and sixth of the season.
"For sure, he's one of biggest pieces of our defense," said Niemi, who started for flu-stricken Cristobal Huet
. "He does everything and he stops the pucks coming to the net."
Seabrook also tried to loosen things up around the locker room during the Hawks' recent struggles prior to Tuesday's win. While in Phoenix this past weekend, he bought a championship belt like those worn in boxing and professional wrestling. He and his teammates have since decided to turn it into a motivational ploy.
After Tuesday's game, the belt went to Niemi -- who stopped 28 shots and made several outstanding saves on plays that he appeared to be beaten.
"It's just sort of a fun thing," Seabrook said. "We sort of bounced the idea around a little bit, thought that it would be a good idea and something fun, unique and cool. I think Calgary did it at one point with the hard hat, but we didn't want to do the same thing as them."
His teammates didn't necessarily need a belt to lift them -- just seeing Seabrook back on the ice did it.
Halfway through the second period, Seabrook slammed Phoenix forward Vernon Fiddler
into the boards behind the Chicago goal with a hip check and then got into a small scuffle following the whistle.
"He was playing and he wasn't shy," Hawks captain Jonathan Toews
said of Seabrook. "It wasn't easy to come back from a head injury like that, so it was good to see that he had the confidence to do that."