Brent Seabrook’s suspension was not yet known when coach Joel Quenneville addressed the media on Sunday afternoon.
Asked what the Chicago Blackhawks would do if they lost one of their top defensemen, Quenneville said, “we’ll talk about that when we have to talk about it.”
Well, now that we know Seabrook is out the next three games, the Blackhawks now have some talking and readjusting to do.
Seabrook was suspended three games for his hit on St. Louis Blues forward David Backes on Sunday. Seabrook, who had never been fined or suspended previously in his nine-year career, will miss Games 3 and 4 here in Chicago and, if it’s necessary, Game 5 in St. Louis.
It was a costly blow for Seabrook and the Blackhawks, who will have to reconfigure their lineup some. How that shakes up the defensive pairs yet is not clear. Sheldon Brookbank played in Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals last spring when Duncan Keith was suspended for hitting Jeff Carter in the mouth with his stick. He could be added now.
“We have three guys coming in,” Johnny Oduya said prior to the suspension announcement. “We have Brooksie, who’s been great the times he’s played this year. Obviously losing Seabs is not ideal, but we kind of had a game last year where we lost Duncs and the other guys had to step in and play more minutes and bigger roles and do a better job. I think that’s something we have to look at. We don’t know what’s going to happen. But we’ll see and we’ll adjust.”
Seabrook played nearly 38 minutes in Game 1, a triple-overtime affair, and another 23-plus in Game 2 before he was assessed his penalties. He’s a steady presence along the blue line and his absence is obviously a void.
“You need his size. 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 important minutes and him and Duncs make a real good pair for us. He's been a great pro for us."
The Blackhawks already had a tough hill to climb, as they’re down 0-2 in this first-round series after suffering two crushing losses. Playing without Seabrook presents one more challenge.
“It hurts, you know. He’s a leader,” Brandon Saad said. “He’s a good player and he does the right things out there. But for the most part we've got to accept the challenge and play without him. We can’t use that as an excuse. They’ve been missing some players in Game 1, so we’ve just got to rise to the challenge and play for him.”