Sunday, April 20, 2014

Seabrook suspended three games for hit on Backes

Reaves called hit, ensuing taunting "gutless";
Hitchcock also concerned about knee on knee hit to Sobotka

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- The verdict is in, and the NHL's Department of Player Safety has suspended Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook for the hit on Blues captain David Backes during Game 2 of the Western Conference First Round series Saturday.

Here is video explanation from the league:

Seabrook was given a major penalty for charging and a game-misconduct with 4:51 remaining in the game and the Blackhawks holding a 3-2 lead. The Blues would go on and tie the game on Vladimir Tarasenko's power play goal with 6.4 seconds left and won it in overtime on Barret Jackman's game-winner to stake the Blues to a 2-0 series lead.

(St. Louis Blues/Mark Buckner)
Blues captain David Backes was the recipient of a vicious check from
Blackhawks' Brent Seabrook, who was suspended three games.
Seabrook delivered a shoulder hit to Backes' head, and Backes would eventually leave the game and not return after trying to get to his feet and take exception to the culprit. Backes was wobbly as he departed the ice and needed help from team trainers.

If Game 3 of the Western Conference First Round series was played Sunday, one thing is for certain: Backes would not have been a player.

"All I know is he's upright and that's about it right now," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said after an optional skate Sunday. "We don't have any further information and probably won't have until late tomorrow."

Backes missed time earlier this season with concussion-like symptoms. The Blues didn't disclose the official extent of the injury, and Hitchcock would not rule Backes out for Game 3 on Monday in Chicago.

"I have no idea. I have no idea right now," Hitchcock said. "I know one thing, he couldn't play today."

Enforcer Ryan Reaves reacted to the hit Sunday.

"It's a player kind of targeting one of our best players, our captain," he said before the suspension was handed down. "I'm sure the league will deal with it. Hopefully they deal with it properly. We'll take it from there. We'll wait and see how 'Backs' is, but to me, it looked a little gutless from where I was standing and the replays I've seen."

To make matters worse from the play, video from the Hockey Night in Canada broadcast of the game can pick up audio of a Blackhawks player (allegedly defenseman Duncan Keith) taunting a dazed Backes with "wakey wakey Backes ... wakey wakey!" (related video:

"I didn't know what they were saying," Reaves said. "I saw them talking to him. It makes it a little more gutless. I don't think there's any need for that when a hit like that happens. You don't need to be going after him when he doesn't know where he is. I think if they want to start getting into that battle, we can play the same way. We'll see where it takes us.

"I'm not happy about that. I don't think anybody in this organization's happy about it. It's a guy that's hurt. During the regular season, the guy's hurt, you don't go after him like that. Usually you slam your sticks up against the boards. To see that happen is just embarrassing in that organization for that to happen."

Hitchcock was an assistant coach on Canada's Olympic team. He didn't want to jump into the who-deserves-what punishment.

"That's something, again, the league can deal with," Hitchcock said. "Duncan's comments, his mannerisms or whatever, they can deal with that. I'm sure there will be somebody saying something to him."

The Blues may have avoided a scare when center Vladimir Sobotka was not seriously injured after taking a knee-on-knee collision with Blackhawks wing Bryan Bickell.

Bickell was assessed a minor penalty on the play, but Hitchcock described Sobotka, who assisted on Barret Jackman's game-winning goal in overtime, as, "average right now."

As much as the Backes play was upsetting to the Blues, the kneeing penalty was just as upsetting to Hitchcock, who said Bickell attempted something similar to defenseman Alex Pietrangelo earlier in the game.

The NHL apparently will not issue any disciplinary action as a result.

"That's lucky. That is usually end-of-the-season, career-ending," Hitchcock said. "Sometimes ACL for sure. That's concerning.

"For me, do what you want. I'm just looking from a safety standpoint from a player, it would be the same thing if we did that same thing to Patrick Kane or we did that to Jonathan Toews, it would be the same thing. Everybody should be concerned about that because it's got no place.

"We'll have our moments, too. It's about doing it at the right time. I think this is a series you have to play whistle to whistle. It's a very hard thing to do. Backes' hit is one thing. That's described by the league. The hit on Sobotka is a whole other thing. The hit on Sobotka, there was a similar hit on 'Petro' in the first period that was really concerning by the same player. The hit on Sobotka was there also. When you're leg-whipping people, it's a concern because that's career-ending. That's ACL career-ending. That's something you don't want to see on either side. That's a big concern for me, the safety of the players. That part bothers me more ... the hit on David is a hit that went awry, but the hit on Sobotka was a continuation of what happened to 'Petro' in the first period."

Hitchcock said heading into Chicago, retaliation is not what the series is all about.

"It's not retaliation. We want to win, they want to win," he said. "The game's full of emotion. It's about playing you best to win the hockey game. Whatever you have to do, you have to do. It's a nasty, physical, intense series. That's what playoff hockey is about. I'm sure they've got video of our guys taking runs at their guys, we've got video of their guys taking runs at us. It's the price you pay to win at this time of the year, especially when you've got two really good teams going at it with lots at stake. This is what happens.

"We're going to have to be better if we expect to win a game in Chicago. Our best games are still in front of us. Hopefully we're going to get better and better, but we know we've got to play better than we have in the first two games if we expect to win the next game."

Reaves agreed.

"You cant start running around taking guys' heads off," he said. "We've got a job to do and I think the ultimate revenge is knocking them out and going on trying to win the Stanley Cup while they're packing up their golf clubs. I think that's going to be our first goal, but we're going to come at them."

(St. Louis Blues/Mark Buckner)
Blues trainer Ray Barile (middle) attends to Vladimir Sobotka (17) after
he was injured on a knee-to-knee hit in the third period Saturday.
On another note, center Patrik Berglund, who missed the final regular season game and Games 1 and 2 with an upper-body injury, skated for the second time in three days. With Backes possibly having to miss time, Berglund's insertion into the lineup would be come at an opportune time and be a boost for the Blues.

"It gets better and better. It feels better and better too," Berglund said. "Hopefully I'll be back soon."

Berglund would not say if Game 3 was a possibility for a return, and with the Blues holding a 2-0 series lead, there was question if it would make sense to rest him more.

"That doesn't matter," Berglund said. "When I feel good, I'm ready to play. We'll see when that is.

"I told the boys yesterday I can't take this anymore. Hopefully I will heal fast and be able to help them out on the ice. It's easier that way."

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