CHICAGO – The team that destroyed the Vancouver Canucks in Games 4 and 5 just got stronger.
Defenceman Brent Seabrook, half of the Blackhawks top pairing, will return to the lineup tonight for Game 6 at the United Center.
“Huge boost for us,” said defenceman Niklas Hjalmarsson. “He’s a great leader on and off the ice.”
“He’s a big part of our hockey team,” added winger Marian Hossa. “Huge on the blueline.”
It’s the second time in the series that Chicago has gained energy from the return of a teammate. Dave Bolland, out six weeks with a concussion, came back for Game 4, scoring two goals and adding two assists to cue Chicago’s comeback in the series.
They’re hoping Seabrook, out for Games 4 and 5 after absorbing a headshot from Raffi Torres, will have the same impact.
“The guys really get excited when they see a Bolland return or a Seabs return,” said head coach Joel Quenneville. “Seeing them around and knowing they can help us, and as a coach having guys who can take quality ice time, you get a boost off it.”
That he still has a series to come back to is the surprise of the first round given that were down 3-0 and looked dead in the water when Seabrook got hurt.
“He just wanted another chance to play, and we wanted to give to him,” said Chris Campoli. “We had to find a way to stay alive in the series. It’s not easy without one of your best players.”
So bring on Game 6. The Hawks can’t wait.
“I’ve never been in a Stanley Cup finals atmosphere, but I’m assuming tonight will be very intense, electric in the building,” said Campoli. “I’m excited, that’s something players can fuel off of. We were hoping for the opportunity to get back here for Game 6, working towards it and surviving, And now we are. I don’t think we’re going to take that for granted.
“For me to be part of that, I’m excited. It’s cool. We want to force Game 7, they don’t want to go back to Vancouver for Game 7.”
No, they don’t. They’re getting close to same level of urgency that the Hawks were in when the series was 3-0.
“It puts us in the same frame of mind as the other guys,” said goalie Roberto Luongo. “Obviously there was maybe a little bit of a comfort level at 3-0, but there’s no more room for mistakes now. We want to make sure we’re playing as desperate as the other side.”