Joel Quenneville was so pleased with all three of his so-called sixth defensemen that he was considering using Michael Kostka or Sheldon Brookbank as a forward, just to keep them on the ice. Instead, he’ll have to make do without Kostka at all for four to six weeks, after the versatile defender suffered a lower-body injury when he was hit in a post-morning skate practice session Tuesday in Sunrise, Fla.
While Kostka had played in only two games this season, including a strong effort including his first career goal Saturday against his old team, the Toronto Maple Leafs, his injury puts a dent in the Hawks’ blue-line depth.
“You get tested, you get challenged,” Quenneville said.
It’s an opportunity for Brookbank, who is coming off possibly his best game in a season-plus with the Hawks. Brookbank, in his fourth appearance of the season, played nearly 20 minutes in Tuesday night’s 3-2 shootout win over the Florida Panthers. He also broke up a two-on-one and showed more offense than he has in the past.
“It feels good,” Brookbank said of the extra ice time. “You kind of get in a rhythm out there. It’s tough to come by minutes sometimes around here, so it’s nice to get a few extra minutes.”
Kostka’s injury means Brookbank is back in the same situation as last year — splitting time with Michal Rozsival. But it’s better than fighting with two guys for one spot.
“It’s never easy in the rotation,” Brookbank said. “Last year was tough, getting that figured out with the rotation, in and out. So I’m actually a little more accustomed to it this year. I’m just trying to focus on being ready for my time when [it] comes. Everyone’s capable of playing here, and everyone’s ready to go.”