For nearly six weeks, Sheldon Brookbank has been skating, practicing, working, just in case.
Now's his chance.
"I had to tell Brooksie a coupe of times, 'Be patient, you're going to get an opportunity, and i could be at the most critical time of the playoffs,'" Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "It's a critical time now. Commend him on his patience, his approach, knowing he deserves to be playing. It's nice to see him get a chance. "
Brookbank will be in the Hawks lineup for the first time since the season finale on April 27 at St. Louis, filling in for Duncan Keith, who was suspended for tonight's Game 4 for his high-sticking incident on Kings forward Jeff Carter in Game 3. He's well rested, but is he rusty?
"I just tried to stay focused as much as I could and just be prepared for the time when they need me," Brookbank said. "Duncan's playing really good right now, he's pretty much our top D-man at this point, so we definitely don't want him to get suspended. But t's definitely an opportunity for me. It's something where I'll just do my best to make the most of."
Brookbank played 26 games during the regular season in a rotation with Michal Rozsival, scoring one goal with no assists and a minus-1 rating.
"He's a professional," Rozsival said. "I know he's been skating hard, been keeping himself ready. He's a steady guy. I don't worry about him not being ready. We'll be fine with him in the lineup."
The Hawks' primary reaction to Keith's suspension -- Marian Hossa said he learned about it from his TSN "phone application" -- was that they had the depth to withstand the blow, even though Keith is their ice-time leader, and plays in all situations.
"He's a big part of the team and he's playing a lot of minutes, playing in key situations on the ice, the power play, penalty-killing," Rozsival said. "We just have to deal with it. It's part of it, whether it's injury or suspension. If we get through this it's going to make us stronger."
Meanwhile, the Kings will once again be without forward Mike Richards, still feeling the effects of Dave Bolland's hit late in Game 1.