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Brent Seabrook travels to Pittsburgh with Blackhawks

Rene Bourque was suspended two games for hitting Brent Seabrook from behind. | Scott Stewart~Sun-Times

Rene Bourque was suspended two games for hitting Brent Seabrook from behind. | Scott Stewart~Sun-Times

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The facts: 6:30, Versus, 720-AM.

Updated: January 21, 2012 8:17AM

PITTSBURGH — Blackhawks center Dave Bolland was kidding but dead serious at the same time.

How does the NHL curb the rash of concussions that has spread like a pandemic?

“I think we have to keep guys out of the gym,” said Bolland, a concussion victim last season. “A lot of guys are getting faster and stronger. That’s the one thing around this league that’s going on. It could be that.”

It could be a lot of things, Bolland said, including a lack of respect by some players.

The Hawks lost defenseman Brent Seabrook in the victory Sunday against the Calgary Flames when Rene Bourque boarded him face-first into the glass after a ­defenseless Seabrook collided with an official.

Seabrook, who has a history of concussions, felt much better later. He also traveled to Pittsburgh for the game Tuesday against the Penguins. Bourque, who was ejected, was suspended two games by NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan on Monday.

“The onus is on Bourque to avoid this hit completely or, at the very least, minimize it,” Shanahan said.

Seabrook and defense partner Duncan Keith played with Bourque for three years with the Hawks.

“I know he is not a dirty, dirty player,” Keith said. “But he was in a tough position there. He was laying on top of him. It didn’t look good.”

No team has gotten more attention for concussions than the Penguins. They saw league icon Sidney Crosby return this season from a concussion that kept him out from Jan. 5 to Nov. 21, only to put him back on the injured list Saturday.

Does the league suffer without Crosby?

“For sure,” Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. “He’s great for our game. He’s a special player. Hopefully, he’s going to be back playing.”

Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger is out for the season because of a concussion, and plenty of other stars are recovering from them.

Seabrook would join them if he sits out Tuesday. But it was an encouraging sign that Seabrook traveled with the team.

The Hawks aren’t saying much, but there also are concerns that Daniel Carcillo suffered a head injury against the Minnesota Wild last week. He did not travel.

Jamal Mayers made his NHL debut in the 1996-97 season and has seen the league undergo many changes. But the recent spate of concussions is troubling.

“In my opinion, there’s three parts to it,” Mayers said. “The doctors and trainers are more cognizant when you do have a mild concussion or a concussion. The diagnosis is much better.

“The second part is with the rule changes since the lockout, there’s no obstruction. You can just dump it in and chase a guy down and there’s nothing you can do, and goalies can’t play the puck outside the trapezoid. You’re kind of leaving the ‘D’ out to dry.

“The third part is part of the responsibility of the person getting hit, turning your back at the wrong time. I don’t know why guys are doing that. That never used to happen.”

“And [for some] guys, there’s a lack of respect when you go to hit somebody.”

Seabrook has been on the receiving end of several head-high hits. Raffi Torres hit him in the playoffs last season, and he missed the next two games. Two seasons ago, James Wisniewski left Seabrook unconscious.

“I don’t know why that is,” Keith said. “It’s just the way it’s been [for Seabrook]. I feel for him. He’s a big, strong guy. You know he’s not going to lay down if it’s not something. It was a tough hit [by Bourque].”

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