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updated: 4/27/2014 10:48 PM

Seabrook returns for Hawks, makes quick impact

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  • Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook smiles with teammate Bryan Bickell after assisting on Bickell's first-period goal Sunday against the Blues.

      Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook smiles with teammate Bryan Bickell after assisting on Bickell's first-period goal Sunday against the Blues.
    John Starks | Staff Photographer

 
 

Watching his Blackhawks teammates play highly intense hockey games was no fun for Brent Seabrook.

"It was tough," Seabrook said Sunday after returning from a three-game suspension for his crunching hit along the boards to the head of St. Louis' David Backes in Game 2 of the teams' opening-round playoff series.

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"I can't watch hockey. I don't know how you guys do it. You're hanging on every shot, every save, every play. You want to be out there helping the guys."

Seabrook had experience watching his Blackhawks teammates play highly intense hockey games, and it was no day at the beach. After not being selected to Team Canada for the Olympics, he bolted to a beach, while 10 of his teammates traveled to Sochi, Russia.

"I got a two-week break," said Seabrook, who played in all 82 regular-season games. "I went to Hawaii, so I returned pretty (well rested)."

Sunday, Seabrook looked peppy, albeit not tanned. It took him all of four minutes, 12 seconds into Game 6 to make an impact. He and Duncan Keith played catch with the puck on the blue line, before Seabrook fired a shot toward the net that Bryan Bickell deflected into the net.

Welcome back, Brent.

"I was just trying to make a play on the ice," said Seabrook, who had 2 goals and 2 assists in Games 1 and 2. "Every game I play I'm just out there trying to help the team, and it was no different tonight. I wasn't trying to be a savior or anything like that."

If Seabrook felt sluggish, his defense partner didn't notice.

"I think our coach was giving him some good skates (in practice)," Keith said with a grin. "He was good out there."

"The coaching staff here does a good job of keeping us in shape when we're not playing," Seabrook said. "We got a good group (of players) here that are skating that are not playing."

Together, Seabrook and Keith were quite great in the Blackhawks' series-clinching, 5-1 win. Each player was a plus-3, and they combined for 6 points.

Keith scored the game's final goal, finishing off a 2-on-1 break with Andrew Shaw, and added 3 assists in a team-leading 25 minutes, 16 seconds of ice time. Keith's 4 points tied his career high for both the playoffs and regular season.

"I think it's the best game I've seen him play," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said of his 2010 Norris Trophy winner and 2014 finalist.

Blues coach Ken Hitchcock might have served up even higher praise for Keith. "He's got a lot of (Nicklas) Lidstrom in him," Hitchcock said. "You think the puck is out, and he keeps it in."

With the Blackhawks having lost the first two games, and with his three-game suspension next, Seabrook did the math. He thought there was a chance his season might have ended prematurely after Game 2.

"That definitely crept into my mind," he said. "But I knew we were a resilient group. The guys played hard, the guys battled, the guys worked. I knew we had a chance to definitely get back in the series."

Through two periods Sunday, Seabrook and Keith barely left the ice, in part because the Blackhawks were busy killing off six power plays.

"The penalty killers got a lot of ice-time," Keith said. "But I think some of our top-end offensive guys weren't out there as much, so maybe they had a little more jump (in the third period)."

At game's end, Seabrook and Backes, who missed Games 3 and 4, paused briefly when they met up in the handshake line. All was seemingly well between the two stars, who exchanged handshakes and taps on the shoulder pads.

"I'm sure we'll talk at some point," Seabrook said.

For now, however, for Seabrook at least, more playoff hockey awaits.

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