Too little, too late?
Perhaps, but the Chicago Blackhawks will get an important reinforcement back in their lineup for tonight's win-or-else game against the Vancouver Canucks.
Centre Dave Bolland, who has been out of the lineup since Mar. 13 recovering from concussion symptoms, has been cleared to play. Bolland was the pest that drove Henrik Sedin to distraction in last year's series, which Chicago won, and was a useful and important presence in a supporting role for the eventual Stanley Cup champions throughout the playoffs.
But on the downside, the Blackhawks will need to muddle along without defenceman Brent Seabrook who, according to coach Joel Quenneville, won't play tonight. Quenneville wouldn't confirm that Seabrook is out with a concussion or concussion-like symptoms, suffered on a hit from Raffi Torres in Sunday's loss to the Canucks, calling it only an "upper body injury."
Seabrook didn't skate today and wasn't unavailable for comment. He reported yesterday that he was "sore" but okay, and thought he would be playing in what could be the final game of the Blackhawks' season.
The question then became, when did his condition deteriorate? Seabrook did return to play after the first Torres hit, but left the game after being hit again - by Torres and Tanner Glass - on a subsequent shift so that he could have his condition evaluated by medical personnel in the quiet room. Ultimately, Seabrook returned to play the third period and finish the game.
The NHL adopted new in-game concussion treatment protocols following the league's March general managers' meetings, but the implementation of those protocols has been an ongoing challenge.
"Over the course of the last couple of days, we've been evaluating him (Seabrook) and this morning, seeing how things presented," said Quenneville. "We were hopeful he was playing, so ... we made our decision."
Quenneville said he would have liked to see Torres get a major penalty and a game misconduct for the hit on Seabrook, but was willing to leave supplementary discipline decisions to the NHL's hockey operations department.
John Scott, who played last game as a forward for the Blackhawks, was expected to dress as the sixth defenceman, but Quenneville said he would up the playing time for Brian Campbell, Chris Campoli and others.
As for Bolland, the question was: After all that time off, and having missed time with three separate injuries, how much of a difference can he make, with the Blackhawks down 3-0 in the Western Conference quarter-finals and facing elimination tonight?
Bolland didn't skate or talk either, but Quenneville said he had no worries about his readiness despite the lengthy absence.
"He's been ready to play for a while," said Quenneville. "We've just been waiting for him to get clearance to play. He feels really good about himself and that he can handle the responsibility and he's going to get some tonight."
Mostly, the Blackhawks were trying to channel the spirit of the Philadelphia Flyers, a team that rallied from a three-game deficit to defeat the Boston Bruins in the second round last year. Quenneville said that extraordinary comeback was the focal point of his address to the troops this morning.
Team captain Jonathan Toews said the Blackhawks were a relaxed team and had nothing left to lose.
"We can play loose; we can let it all hang out," said Toews. "We're not feeling sorry for ourselves. We're looking to play as hard as we can. We're professionals in here and care about each other. We've just got to find a way to win one. That's all we're thinking about right now."