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Blackhawks’ Seabrook back on track after being paired with Keith once again


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Updated: May 26, 2013 10:10PM

Brent Seabrook got a nudge from Joel Quenneville and a little help from Duncan Keith. But his own pride helped break him out of a postseason slump.

‘‘I was [ticked] off at myself, first and foremost.’’ he said. ‘‘In my [eight years] here in Chicago, I’ve always had a lot of responsibility in key situations — being against their team’s top line — and I think I’ve done a good job over the years and took pride in it.

‘‘Tazer [Jonathan Toews] scores the goals. Kaner [Patrick Kane] makes passes and scores goals. I was the shut-down guy, physical guy who made it tough on the other team’s top players. That was a role I loved and took pride in. That’s the role I want to play.’’

Seabrook played that role at the most opportune time Saturday night. Responding to a not-so-subtle message from Quenneville — in the form of a career-low 12:03 of ice-time in Game 4 of the Blackhawks’ Western Conference semifinal series with the Red Wings — Seabrook had a big hit on Damien Brunner that set the tone and ended up with seven shots on goal and an assist and was on the ice for three Blackhawks goals in a 4-1 victory over the Wings in Game 5 on Saturday night at the United Center.

‘‘I wasn’t happy with my play at the start of the series and even going back to Minnesota [in the first round],’’ said Seabrook, who had no points and was a minus-4 in the postseason heading into Game 5, including a minus-5 in the first four games against the Red Wings. ‘‘It was nice to have a better game [Saturday] night.’’

After the virtual benching in Game 4 — after Seabrook was admittedly burned for a goal by Gustav Nyquist in the Hawks’ 3-1 loss in Game 3 — Seabrook ended up with 23:20 of ice time, much closer to his season average of 22:00.

‘‘You just stick with it and keep going,’’ Seabrook said. ‘‘I came in every game excited and ready to go. For whatever reason, I didn’t like my game [prior to Saturday night]. It was nice to get back out there and play [in Game 5] and have some shifts.’’

Quenneville’s tough love played a role, but so did his decision to re-unite Seabrook with Duncan Keith for the first time in the postseason.

‘‘It’s a comfortability we’ve had,’’ Seabrook said. ‘‘We’ve played together for a lot of years. A lot of games. I know where he’s going to be. He knows where I’m going to be. It’s that comfortability that we have with each other.’’

Seabrook and Keith have always worked well together with the Hawks. Together they have been one of the best defensmen pairings in the NHL.

‘‘It’s nice’’ said Keith, who won the Norris Trophy in 2010 when he was paired with Seabrook. ‘‘He’s a good teammate, a good guy and I’ve played with him for a long time. It’s always nice to play with him. Have that comfort factor that I know where he’s going to be.

‘‘I thought he played good coming off not playing very much. It’s tough to do that. Not only physically but mentally and he did a great job — lot of good shots, lot of big hits. He’s a great player.’’

Quenneville said the decision to put Seabrook and Keith together was more for the overall team effort. Until then, the Red Wings were winning the battle against all three defensive pairings when the Hawks were supposed to have the edge from top to bottom. But he probably wishes he had made the move earlier in the series.

‘‘You’ve got to commend Seabs,’’ Quenneville said. ‘‘I think he was excited about the opportunity and prepared himself well. They have such a great rapport — him and Duncs – in all areas of their lives. I think that support on the other side helps him. I thought right off the bat he got some good hits and it was good to see him bounce back.’’

The job now is to sustain whatever momentum Seabrook and the Hawks have going into Game 6 on Monday night at Joe Louis Arena. Momentum on either side in this series has been a difficult thing to predict.

‘‘We were confident with our game last night. we were happy with how we played,’’ Seabrook said. ‘‘And it’s something you’ve got to forget about and just get focused and ready to play [Monday] night.

‘‘We’re going to go in there and try to play the same way. We had a good start to the game and were able to play like that and roll and we’re going to have to continue to try and harness that [Monday] night and play with that passion and that excitement and go out there.’’

Seabrook will have a lot to do with that.

‘‘For us to win [Monday night] we need him,’’ Keith said. ‘‘He’s a guy that has that presence out there.’’

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