CHICAGO | Trailing the Western Conference quarterfinals series 2-0 to the St. Louis Blues, the Blackhawks learned Sunday they'll play three games without the skills of No. 2 defenseman Brent Seabrook.
Seabrook was suspended for three games Sunday by the NHL for his hit on Blues captain David Backes late in Game 2 Saturday in St. Louis. Game 3 of the best-of-seven series is Monday at the United Center.
The league reasoned that since Backes was trying to control a loose puck, but had not done so, Seabrook’s hit was illegal. He drove his shoulder up into Backes’ face against the glass at 15:09 of the third period.
Seabrook was assessed a five-minute major penalty and a game misconduct. Leading 3-2 at the time, the Hawks came within seven seconds of killing off the penalty and surviving a two-man Blues advantage with St. Louis goalie Ryan Miller pulled. But Vladimir Tarsenko scored past Hawks goalie Corey Crawford to tie it.
St. Louis went to win its second straight overtime game in the series. The Hawks also lost their previous regular-season game Dec. 28 at Scottrade Center via a shootout. Overall, they are 0-for-St. Louis since October.
“While it is possible that Seabrook does not initially recognize that Backes never gains possession of the puck, the onus still is on Seabrook to ensure that he does not hit an ineligible opponent,” the league said.
Defensemen like Johnny Oduya and Michael Rozsival will have to plug the gaping hole left by Seabrook, veteran of both of the Hawks’ recent Stanley Cup championships.
“He’s a great player,” said Oduya. “He’s one of the leaders, for sure. It’s going to be a little bit of an adjustment. ... It’s something we have to adjust to and move from there. We have a couple of guys who can go in and play who have done a great job. We’ll be OK.”
Said Rozsival: “Honestly, you lose a valuable piece of your team. ... Obviously, somebody’s going to have to play his minutes. Whoever that is, it will more responsibility and more ice time.”
The ultimate line juggler, Hawks coach Joel Quenneville will need to be at his nimblest mentally to figure out who to team with Duncan Keith on the blue line.
"You need his presence, experience and leadership,” Quenneville said. “He's got the big shot on the point, and he's on our power play as well. (He) kills penalties. So he plays all important minutes, and him and (Keith) make a real good pair for us. He's been a great pro for us."
In particular, Seabrook’s fill-ins will have to help prevent the late-game goals that turned a possible 2-0 Hawks advantage coming home into a big deficit.
The Hawks needed to avoid a team demoralizing affect, especially after Tarsenko’s last-second goal.
“It’s always tough,” said center Michal Handzus. “Obviously, it’s going to happen in the playoffs. That’s what the playoffs are about. Turn the page and learn from it and get ready for our next game.”
Crawford accepted responsibility for Tarsenko’s goal.
“He said he needs to be better,” Quenneville said. “He needs to be better."