Drop in ice time leads to an elevation in Brent Seabrook’s play

Brent Seabrook had by far his least ice time of the season Wednesday night against the New York Rangers. Perhaps not coincidentally, he had one of his best games, with four shots on goal, two blocked shots, an assist, and a plus-2 rating.

“I want to play as much as I can [but] I want to help the team out any way I can,” Seabrook said. “Whatever the case may be, I thought I had a better game [Wednesday] night I had more jump, more pace to my game.”

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Removed from power-play duty for the game, Seabrook played just 16 minutes, 26 seconds against the Rangers — more than five minutes less than his season average. That’s a massive drop in ice time for any player, let alone an established veteran. In fact, it was the 32-year-old workhorse’s least amount of ice time in a game since the 2013 postseason. And while no player ever wants to relinquish ice time, the Blackhawks have been riding Seabrook and Duncan Keith (25:03 per game) particularly hard this season with all the turnover on the blue line. Spreading that ice time around could prove beneficial in both the short and long term.

Brent Seabrook played a season-low 16:26 Wednesday night. (AP Photo)

Coach Joel Quenneville hedged when asked if that was his aim, however. He made it sound like it was more performance-based. Seabrook has struggled at times to keep up with faster teams, and has taken a team-high 10 minor penalties as a result. And his possession numbers are some of the worst of his career.

“As a defenseman, I find the more you play, the better you play,” Quenneville said. “In the case with [Seabrook], he’s looking to get his game back to where he’s more confident with it and feels better about it. I thought he took a nice step in that direction. Whether it’s because the minutes were lower or an awareness thing, his game was more complete. So I would expect Seabs’ minutes to progress from those levels. … I thought everyone was contributing in a meaningful way. [Keith] will get a fair share more [minutes] than anyone else, but if we can get everyone around comparable numbers and happy with it, that can be good for our team.”

Seabrook has been paired with Connor Murphy the past three games, with Murphy playing on his off side as a fellow right-hander. It’s been a work in progress, but Seabrook likes the potential with two physical presences with big shots.

“Any time you’re with a new guy — he’s a righty, I’m a righty — it’s going to take a little bit of getting used to,” Seabrook said. “But he’s a great player. I think getting out there and practicing and playing is good for us.”

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Email: mlazerus@suntimes.com