Hawk Talk: Time to split Keith and Seabrook?

Hawk Talk: Time to split Keith and Seabrook?

Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2010
6:53 PM

By Tracey Myers
CSNChicago.com

Niklas Hjalmarsson's punishment was handed down on Tuesday afternoon, when the Blackhawks defenseman got a two-game suspension for his hit on Jason Pominville according to TSN.ca's report. There are all sorts of opinions on whether it was worth suspension or not. Joel Quenneville said postgame Monday he didn't think so. The Sabres did think so. No, there was no bad intent but it was still a bit from behind and a player's head went into the boards.

But I digress. The opinion that ultimately counts is the NHL's, and the ruling has been passed. You wish Pominville a speedy recovery and return from that concussion. As for the Blackhawks, it's time to regroup, especially along the blue line. Because for at least two games, that once deep defensemen corps is running very thin.

The Blackhawks were already adjusting to the loss of Brian Campbell, who has about 3-4 weeks to go on that sprained right MCL. Now Hjalmarsson is out a few games. So the onus falls on those remaining. Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook have taken on much of that load; Keith has played more than 30 minutes in each of the Hawks' first three games, including nearly 34 in the season opener against Colorado.

Here comes the "no kidding" part of my soliloquy: those minutes need to be spread out more. Nick Boynton said after Monday's game that he's just fine with playing more minutes. Rookie Nick Leddy, John Scott, Jordan Hendry (who's been a scratch the past two games but they need him now), all hands have to be on deck.

And is it time to break up that Keith-Seabrook tandem, if but for a few games? I know, the chemistry of the two together is fantastic. Lightning and thunder. When asked about it a few days ago -- before the Hjalmarsson suspension -- coach Joel Quenneville didn't sound too keen on the idea. But that was before all of this, and it may have to be a short-term solution.

Either way, the healthy D-men have to step up and take on more responsibilities. Some will grow up fast, some will grow into new roles. Adjusting on the fly is something all teams have to do at some point of the season. The Blackhawks will find out how quickly they can do it.

Tracey Myers is CSNChicago.com's Blackhawks Insider. Follow Tracey on Twitter @TramyersCSN for up-to-the-minute Hawks information.

Jonathan Toews practices but won’t play vs. Flyers

Jonathan Toews practices but won’t play vs. Flyers

Jonathan Toews sounded somewhat frustrated but cognizant of the situation.

If it were the postseason there’s no doubt he would be playing right now. That’s not a surprise to hear, considering what hockey players put themselves through when the playoffs start. But this is early December. There are too many games remaining. And with it coming down to making sure he’s healthy for the long haul, it’s an easy call.

Toews practiced on Friday for the first time since being hurt, but he won’t travel to Philadelphia when the Blackhawks face the Flyers on Saturday afternoon. It will be the fifth consecutive game Toews has missed since he was hurt against the San Jose Sharks on Nov. 23. Still, him skating on his own and then practicing with teammates for a few minutes is a good sign that Toews is closing in on a return.

“Just come back and check in again [Saturday], see how it is and hopefully, I guess as they say, re-evaluate for Sunday,” Toews said on Friday. “It’s never fun to miss any time, especially when the team is playing as many games as they are. So nice to get back out there and move around and get going a little bit.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

Toews was placed on injured reserve on Friday, retroactive to Nov. 24, the day after he was injured.  Coach Joel Quenneville said he’ll see how Toews feels on Saturday and, “we’ll get a better idea going forward. But he’s not on the trip.”

“You gotta be fully recovered and want to make sure guys are 100 percent before they can play,” Quenneville said. “Jonny plays at a certain pace and it’s all out, so let’s make sure he’s more than ready when he’s coming back.”

Several have reported that Toews has a back injury, and the captain was doing several back stretches during Friday’s session. Toews left in the second period of the Blackhawks’ 2-1 loss to the Sharks, moments after he went down awkwardly. But Toews said he wasn’t hurt on that play. 

“I think it was just something that started to aggravate in the first period. I tried playing in the second and that instance right there, just went down like a ton of bricks,” Toews said. “I was trying not to aggravate the injury more than I already had. That wasn’t where I got hurt; [it was] probably the instance people were looking for to see what the explanation was.”

If this were April and the playoffs were about to begin, Toews probably wouldn’t be as patient with his injury. But it isn’t, and he will be. It’s not worth making worse. The Blackhawks have managed to get points in his absence, going 3-0-1 so far.

“It’s the type of thing most guys would be able to suck up and play if it were a playoff game and putting everything on the line. But at this point, with the amount of games left in the season, it’s not something you want to continuously deal with,” he said. “If you aggravate it, it’ll keep coming back to haunt you. It’s tough to hold back and do less than you know you can, but in the long run, trying to make sure I get back to 100 percent.”

BRIEFLY

- Trevor van Riemsdyk was activated off the injured-reserve list and is expected to play against the Flyers.

- Marian Hossa took practice off. He is expected to play.

-  Corey Crawford will start vs. Philadelphia.

Blackhawks Road Ahead: Feasting on the East

Blackhawks Road Ahead: Feasting on the East

Pat Boyle, Steve Konroyd and Jamal Mayers have the latest on Joel Quenneville's group in this edition of the Blackhawks Road Ahead, sponsored by Chicagoland NW Indiana Honda dealers.

The Blackhawks are once again taking care of business, going 3-0-1 with their captain Jonathan Toews on the sideline. They're also 6-2-2 against the East this year, and they'll get another chance to add to that record when they take on the Flyers this week.

Here's what our Blackhawks Postgame Live crew had to say about the team's upcoming matchups in this week's Honda Road Aehad.