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NHL almost certain to suspend Brent Seabrook for his hit on David Backes

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Updated: May 21, 2014 9:49AM



ST. LOUIS — Brent Seabrook didn’t mean to do it.

“It wasn’t my intent,’’ a contrite Seabrook said regarding his check that leveled Blues forward David Backes and earned Seabrook a game misconduct. “I was just trying to make a play on Backes. I thought the puck was there. I was on [Alexander] Steen. I was just coming down the wall and I just tried to finish my hit.’’

Unfortunately for the Blackhawks, that doesn’t matter. “I didn’t mean to do it” didn’t work with mom when you pushed your brother down the stairs. And it certainly won’t carry much weight with the NHL’s Department of Player Safety when it adjudicates Seabrook’s hit on Backes in the Blackhawks’ 4-3 overtime loss to the Blues on Saturday at Scottrade Center.

Seabrook’s hit on Backes, which drew a five-minute charging penalty and a game misconduct, is almost certain to also draw a suspension from the NHL. Seabrook will have a phone hearing Sunday, meaning any suspension will be five games or fewer.

Seabrook is a first-time offender. But Backes was injured on the play and his status for the rest of the series is in doubt. If it had happened the other way around, everybody in Chicago would be calling for Backes’ head.

“We’ll see what happens,’’ Seabrook said. “I feel bad seeing guy on the ice. I’ve been there myself. I’m not trying to target his head [or] anything like that. It doesn’t feel good to see a player lying there like that, and knowing that I hit him.

“I don’t know what happened. I looked around, the refs didn’t have their arm up for a penalty. That’s when I saw David sitting there and it’s tough to see that. I just hope he’s doing OK.’’

How is Backes? “How do you think he is? Not good,’’ Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. “I have no thoughts on the hit. It’s up to the league.’’

Whether you saw Seabrook’s hit as an aggressive check that inadvertently went over the line or a vicious attack on a defenseless player without the puck, the result of his actions will determine his fate.

He came close to leaving his skates to deliver a blow where the “principal point of contact” was Backes’ head. That Seabrook wasn’t targeting Backes’ head is no longer a point of contention in these situations. The NHL took out the ‘’targeting’’ aspect of the hit-to-the-head rule before last season.

The Seabrook-Backes incident illustrated the difficulty the Blackhawks have in straddling the fine line in dealing with the Blues’ physical nature in this series. They responded well in recovering from a 2-0 deficit to take a 3-2 lead in the third period, but edged closer and closer to the line as the game ensued.

Corey Crawford took exception to the Blues’ aggressiveness around his net and shoved Ryan Reaves to get his point across. Kris Versteeg was penalized for roughing. Brandon Bollig was given a 10-minute misconduct. Bryan Bickell was called for dangerously kneeing Vladimir Sobotka. As the Hawks were killing that penalty with six minutes left in regulation and a 3-2 lead — and seemingly gaining momentum — Seabrook went over the line.

“As soon as it happened, we’re like, ‘We’re winning this for him,’ ’’ said Blues forward Chris Porter.

That’s the other factor the Blackhawks have to deal with. They are down 2-0 in the series. They likely will be without Seabrook for at least the next game. And the Blues are ticked off.

That’s nothing the Hawks can’t handle. But already this series is becoming more challenging than it needed to be. They might have to dig deeper than normal to pull themselves out of this one.

Email: mpotash@suntimes.com

Twitter: @MarkPotash



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