Blackhawks’ vets pick up slack for missing Keith
BY MARK POTASH firstname.lastname@example.org June 6, 2013 11:46PM
Updated: June 7, 2013 12:59PM
LOS ANGELES — On any team in the NHL, a player the caliber of Duncan Keith is going to be missed. But on this one, only so much.
Despite a couple of hiccups from the makeshift defensive pairing of Sheldon Brookbank and Nick Leddy, the Blackhawks compensated for the loss of their suspended defensive leader in workmanlike fashion in a 3-2 victory over the Los Angeles Kings in Game 4 of the Western Conference finals.
‘‘It’s the playoffs and we’re deep,’’ coach Joel Quenneville said. ‘‘It’s an exciting situation to be in. It’s a great opportunity. We were very frustrated, disappointed with the way we competed [in Game 3]. Talk about your leadership, talk about everybody — the contribution we got across the board is what we were looking for.’’
Both of the Kings’ goals were scored when the Brookbank-Leddy pairing was on the ice. But veterans Brent Seabrook, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Michal Rozsival and Johnny Oduya picked up the slack as the Hawks took a 3-1 lead in the series with a chance to close it out in Game 5 on Saturday at the United Center.
‘‘We won the game, so I’d say ‘mission accomplished’ for sure,’’ said Hjalmarsson, who had two assists. “Personally, I was a little lost in the first period on the left side. But I figured it out better as the game went along. [Keith will be] back next game. . . . It’s going to be even better.’’
The Hawks’ veteran defensemen put in overtime to make it happen, led by Rozsival, whose ice time increased from 15:54 in Game 3 to 25:28 in Game 4. But despite the workload, the Hawks’ defense got better as the game went on.
‘‘I never feel tired after a win,’’ Rozsival said. ‘‘I don’t know how much I played. I have no idea. I tried to give it my all every shift. I was really tired. But the excitement of the game and everything that surrounds it gives you an energy boost. I’m just glad I was able to step in and do a good job.’’
Without Keith, who was serving a one-game suspension for his high-stick to Jeff Carter’s face in Game 3, Quenneville paired Seabrook with Hjalmarsson and kept the Rozsival-Oduya pairing intact. Brookbank and Leddy’s time diminished as the game progressed. Brookbank had 6:50 of ice time — just 3:46 in the final two periods. Leddy had 1:12 of ice time.
‘‘It says we’re a deep team,’’ Rozsival said. ‘‘It’s not about individuals on this team. The whole team is pulling on the same rope and it’s been pulling the whole season and the playoffs. It’s great to see all the guys contribute with a guy like Duncs missing.’’
But that’s not a trick the Hawks want to try too often.
‘‘Definitely,’’ Rozsival said. ‘‘We can’t really afford to have [Keith out]. As long as he’s available, we need him back.’’