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Brookbank’s time at forward a message to Morin

OttawSenators right wing Erik Condr(22) is unable get shot goal against Chicago Blackhawks defenseman SheldBrookbank (17) goalie Nikolai Khabibulduring first

Ottawa Senators right wing Erik Condra (22) is unable to get a shot on goal against Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Sheldon Brookbank (17) and goalie Nikolai Khabibulin during the first period of an NHL hockey game Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2013, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

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Updated: December 11, 2013 6:55AM



DALLAS — Having been a defenseman all his life, certain things just come naturally to Sheldon Brookbank. When the other team transitions, when an opponent winds up for a shot, when he sees the puck skittering along his own goal line, his instincts take over. It’s muscle memory, reactions that have been ingrained in his mind and simply happen instantly.

Those innate instincts aren’t there as a forward.

“It’s a little foreign,” Brookbank said. “You have to think a little bit.”

Brookbank played right wing for the second consecutive game Saturday night in Dallas, and the third time in his Blackhawks career. Coach Joel Quenneville said it wasn’t a long-term plan, but he clearly wanted to get Brookbank — who has fared well while splitting time with Michal Rozsival as the sixth defenseman — in more games, while sending a message to rookie Jeremy Morin, who was a healthy scratch for the second consecutive game.

Quenneville said that Morin’s offensive instincts are sound, but that he needs to be better without the puck — a message he also is trying to deliver to second-line center Brandon Pirri.

For Brookbank, it’s a little strange. But he’ll take it.

“I like playing ‘D’ better,” he said. “But I also like being in the lineup.”

Brookbank played one shift in the first period Wednesday against Winnipeg, as Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa double-shifted a bit, but finished with 10 shifts and nearly as much ice time as the fourth-liners.

“He did a great job last game, as far as swinging into guys and taking the puck away and forcing guys to dump the puck,” Kane said. “He made some nice chips along the wall, got the puck in. I’m sure that they recognized that and wanted to give him another shot at it.”

Brookbank said he’s had the best point of view of what forwards do from his spot at the point, and that he’s maybe been more conscious of their responsibilities than other defensemen. But it’s still quite an adjustment for a 31-year-old player.

“I feel sometimes like I’m just wasting energy,” he said. “I don’t know the tricks of the trade yet, but that’ll come with time.”

Roster report

Niklas Hjalmarsson, who left Friday’s practice early with an upper-body injury, was fine and played.

◆ Michal Handzus (upper body) didn’t make the trip, but is close to returning to practice.

◆ Coach Joel Quenneville wouldn’t tip his hand for Sunday’s home game against Calgary. Corey Crawford started back-to-back nights last weekend, and Nikolai Khabibulin hasn’t played since being pulled halfway through a game against Ottawa on Oct. 29.

Email: mlazerus@suntimes.com

Twitter: @MarkLazerus



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