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Seabrook returns to form alongside Keith

CHICAGO -- Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook’s individual play was behind him losing minutes of ice time and then gaining them back, but it might not be a fluke that the latter occurred playing beside an old friend.

After seeing a season-low 12:03 of playing time in Game 4 of a Western Conference semifinal series against the Detroit Red Wings, Seabrook was reunited with longtime defensive partner Duncan Keith in Game 5. The two had been split up earlier in the season when Chicago coach Joel Quenneville was searching for more stable play from all of his pairings.

Months later, Quenneville was looking again for something to change, and he found it again as Seabrook had one of his best games of the playoffs while contributing an assist, two hits, seven shots on goal and major minutes on the power play and penalty kill in the Blackhawks’ 4-1 win in Game 5 on Saturday. He finished with 23:20 of ice time, which was second only to Keith’s 23:48.

“You got to commend Seabs,” Quenneville said on Sunday before departing for Detroit. “I think the day before, he was excited about the opportunity and prepared himself well. They have a great rapport, him and Duncs [Keith]. They’re very close in all areas of their lives. I think that support on the other side helps him. I thought right off the bat he got some good hits into the game, got him into the game, good to see him bounce [back].”

Seabrook had been frustrated by his own play for much of the playoffs. He wanted to be out on the ice more, but he never questioned Quenneville’s decision to cut his minutes during the Red Wings series.

Seabrook said the key to getting back on track Saturday was never stopping to dwell on his situation.

“You got to stick with it, keep going,” Seabrook said. “I came in[to] every game excited, ready to go. For whatever reason, I didn’t like my game.

“It was a comfortable feeling [Saturday night]. I was excited to be back out there and play. I wasn’t happy with my game at the start of the series and even going back to Minnesota [in the first round]. It was nice to have a better game.”

Keith has always had a high level of respect for Seabrook, but was especially impressed with how Seabrook handled his decreased role and fought for it back.

“It’s always nice to play with him and have that comfort factor, knowing where he’s going to be,” Keith said. “I thought he played good coming off not playing very much. It’s tough to do that not only physically, but mentally. He did a good job; a lot of big shots, a lot of big hits. He’s a great player.

“We need him. For us to win, win [Game 6], we’re going to need him. He’s a guy who has that presence out there.”

That responsibility is something Seabrook has had in the past, and it’s still something he wants in the present.

“My time here in Chicago, I’ve always had a lot of responsibility in key situations,” Seabrook said. “I’ve been against the other teams’ top lines, and I thought I’ve done a good job over the years. I took pride in it.

“It was my job, so to speak. [Jonathan Toews] scores goals. [Patrick Kane] makes passes, scores goals. I was the shutdown guy, physical guy, make it tough on the other teams’ top players. That was the role I loved, took pride in. When I come to the rink, that’s the role I want to play.”