Canucks-Blackhawks Preview

Chicago defenseman Brent Seabrook seemed OK and said he felt

good after taking a blow to the head in Game 3 of the Blackhawks’

first-round series with Vancouver.

But he hasn’t played since.

In the aftermath of a crushing hit from Canucks forward Raffi

Torres last Sunday, Seabrook missed the next two games – both

lopsided Chicago victories that have cut Vancouver’s once imposing

series lead to 3-2 entering Game 6 on Sunday.

Seabrook was back on the ice skating in practice Saturday,

hoping he can return to the lineup as the defending Stanley Cup

champions try to even the series. A final decision won’t come until

Sunday.

Asked if he had any more symptoms from the apparent concussion

that sidelined him, Seabrook replied: ”Nope.”

”I’m optimistic I can go tomorrow,” he said. ”We’ll

see.”

Chicago’s play improved greatly as the Blackhawks seemed to

rally behind Seabrook after he absorbed the blow that many of his

teammates thought merited a suspension.

They were charged up, twice forcing Vancouver goalie Roberto

Luongo to be pulled during decisive five-goal victories in Games 4

and 5.

Seabrook said he starting feeling OK on Friday.

”It was very frustrating, obviously. I wanted to be out there

with the guys,” Seabrook said. ”I was talking with them and

asking for another chance to get in the lineup and they’ve done an

unbelievable job. They played two great games. Hopefully (Sunday)

is a better day for me and I can get back in there and help the

guys out.”

In changing the tenor of the series, Chicago has found its power

play, been able to open up the ice, and solved Luongo over the last

two games. And rookie Corey Crawford – who has worked in summer

goalie camps with Luongo – has outplayed the Vancouver star,

including a Game 5 shutout when he made 36 saves.

”It’s a team game. I’m worried about tomorrow night more than

just what happened the last couple of games,” said Luongo, who has

given up 10 goals in 40 shots the last two games and has had

trouble with the Blackhawks for three straight playoffs.

Playing at the United Center, though, he said is something he

enjoys, despite some of the struggles.

”It’s fun. I love it when the crowd yells at me, even when I

got pulled,” Luongo said.

Vancouver must help Luongo by slowing down Chicago to get open

paths in mid-ice.

”If you look at our last two games, you think, ‘Wow they’re not

competing, they’re not doing this or doing that,”’ Canucks forward

Henrik Sedin said. ”Anything can be created when you give a team

that much room in the middle of the ice. They’re coming with speed

against our D-men, and a lot of times it’s three against two or

three against one.”

Duncan Keith, Seabrook’s good friend and running mate on

defense, has been the main catalyst. Keith has scored four goals

over the last three games and had four points in Thursday night’s

victory at Vancouver.

Keith made a somewhat surprising admission on Friday, explaining

his slow start and sluggish performance at times this season – one

year after winning the Norris Trophy.

”I played a lot of games the year before and there’s things I

probably could have done differently in the summer to prepare for

this season,” Keith said. ”I like to work out and train a lot and

feel good going into the season. I’m not making any excuses, but I

didn’t feel excited coming back to start the season. That’s just

being honest.”

Sometimes he’s played well, others not so much.

”I felt like I had really good stretches and then there were

times where, I would, I don’t want to say lose focus, but not

really as interested for whatever reason,” he added.

Now he’s really into it and so are the Blackhawks. And the play

has become increasingly chippy between the heated rivals. Chicago’s

Dave Bolland, who returned for Game 4 after missing 17 games with a

concussion, was irate over a hit near his head from Vancouver’s Dan

Hamhuis on Thursday.

The Canucks are taking the approach that, even though they don’t

have to win Sunday night as the Blackhawks do, it will be like a

Game 7.

”It puts us all in the same frame of mind as the other guys,”

Luongo said. ”Obviously, you may have a little bit of a comfort

level at 3-0, but there is no more room for mistakes. We want to

make sure we are playing as desperate as the other side.”