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Blackhawks Hold Optional Practice With Season On The Line

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Joel Quenneville

Joel Quenneville (Photo Credit: Getty Images, By: Jonathan Daniel)

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By Adam Hoge-

UNITED CENTER (CBS) Facing elimination Saturday night at the United Center, the Blackhawks held a full team meeting Friday before an optional practice.

Twelve players took the ice for the optional skate that did not include head coach Joel Quenneville.

“We talked about the situation and where we’re at,” Quenneville said about the team meeting. “I thought it was very productive and positive. It was a good meeting.”

It’s not all that surprising that the team didn’t have a full practice with their season on the line. Throughout the lockout-shortened season, Quenneville has cut back on practice time and the Blackhawks were actually playing their best hockey when they would only have or two practices a week.

The 12 players on the ice for Friday’s skate included Brandon Saad, Michael Frolik, Jamal Mayers, Daniel Carcillo, Marcus Kruger, Brent Seabrook, Sheldon Brookbank, Nick Leddy, Brandon Bollig, Jonathan Toews, Ben Smith and Ray Emery.

A number of those guys might be looking to crack the lineup in Game 5, while others — specifically Seabrook and Leddy — might just be looking for more playing time. Seabrook only played 12:03 Thursday night while Leddy saw just 8:38 of ice time.

When asked Friday if he was surprised about his lack of playing time, Seabrook simply said: “Um, I don’t really want to talk about that.”

Later, when asked if this series has been a struggle for him, the defenseman just said: “Um, yep.”

Quenneville said the cut in playing time for both Seabrook and Leddy was because of matchups, but then conceded that their recent performance has something to do with it.

“I think usually it’s a reflection of your performance and your contribution and sometimes your minutes are higher than others in games and stretches of games,” the head coach said.

Quenneville said both could have a chance to see their playing time increase, but with the season on the line it’s possible the head coach goes with some fresh blood in the lineup. Sheldon Brookbank is a candidate to enter the defensive pairings, while it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Ben Smith inserted on the forward lines.

With an optional skate Friday, it’s hard to tell if there will be any big changes like that, but they could become apparent at Saturday’s morning skate.

For more coverage of the Blackhawks throughout the playoffs, follow Adam on Twitter (@AdamHoge).

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