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Seabrook nears return for Chicago

Chicago defenseman Brent Seabrook seemed OK and said he felt good after taking a blow to the head in Game Three of the Blackhawks' first-round series with Vancouver.

But he hasn't played since.

In the aftermath of a crushing hit from Canucks forward Raffi Torres last Sunday, Seabrook missed the next two games -- both lopsided Chicago victories that have cut Vancouver's once imposing series lead to 3-2 entering Game Six tonight (7:30 p.m., Ch. 5, Versus).

Seabrook was back on the ice skating in practice Saturday, hoping he can return to the lineup as the defending Stanley Cup champions try to even the series. A final decision won't come until today.

Asked if he had any more symptoms from the apparent concussion that sidelined him, Seabrook replied: "Nope."

"I'm optimistic I can go [today]," he said. "We'll see."

Chicago's play improved greatly as the Blackhawks seemed to rally behind Seabrook after he absorbed the blow that many of his teammates thought merited a suspension.

They were charged up, twice forcing Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo to be pulled during decisive five-goal victories in Games Four and Five.

Seabrook said he started feeling OK on Friday.

"It was very frustrating, obviously. I wanted to be out there with the guys," Seabrook said. "I was talking with them and asking for another chance to get in the lineup and they've done an unbelievable job. They played two great games. Hopefully [today] is a better day for me and I can get back in there and help the guys out."

In changing the tenor of the series, Chicago has found its power play, been able to open up the ice, and solved Luongo over the last two games. And rookie Corey Crawford -- who has worked in summer goalie camps with Luongo -- has outplayed the Vancouver star, including a Game Five shutout when he made 36 saves.

"It's a team game. I'm worried about [tonight] more than just what happened the last couple of games," said Luongo, who has given up 10 goals in 40 shots the last two games.


Predators a step away

NASHVILLE -- The Nashville Predators are in position to take the biggest step in franchise history.

The team best known for being just good enough to make the playoffs but go no further can advance to its first Western Conference semifinals with a win over the Anaheim Ducks in tonight's Game Six (6 p.m.).

Nashville grabbed a 3-2 lead in this first-round series in dramatic fashion Friday night in Anaheim, rallying for a 4-3 overtime win. It was the Predators' first victory in a Game Five, their first postseason OT win and their first time to win three games in a series.

Just the kind of thrilling finish that can swing the momentum in a series for good.

"The goal is to go home and finish it off at home," Nashville forward Joel Ward said. "We definitely don't want to get back on a four-hour flight to California."

Jerred Smithson won the game with his overtime goal, and he said the Predators are not done yet.

"We still have a lot of work to do, but we have put ourselves in a good position," Smithson said.

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