Preps Talk

Blackhawks' Keith ready to shake rust off

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Blackhawks' Keith ready to shake rust off

ST. PAUL, Minn. Duncan Keith has been a spectator for long enough; its time to play again.

Keith will be back in the lineup tonight when the Blackhawks face the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center. The Blackhawks are jockeying for position at this point, a playoff berth already secured last weekend. But for Keith, its a chance to shake the rust off and get back to playing those heavy minutes hes logged over the past few seasons.

So how long will it take Keith to get re-acclimated?

I guess were going to find out, Keith said this morning. Ive played a lot of hockey already so Ill just take the first period, (take) short shifts, keep it simple and go from there.

Indeed, Keiths already logged plenty of ice time this season. Hes second in the league with 26 minutes, 53 seconds of ice time per game this season; former teammate Brian Campbell is first, his TOIgame just two seconds higher. If nothing else, Keith got some much-needed rest.

I feel good and stronger than I was before (the suspension), Keith said recently. So hopefully it pays off.

The Blackhawks went a respectable 2-1-2 without Keith, with fellow defensemen picking up his minutes and responsibilities. Keiths return restores the defensive balance the Blackhawks have enjoyed since Johnny Oduya was acquired at the end of February.

That, and that copious amount of ice time Keith always consumes.

It means a lot to your team as far as what he brings, the quality and quantity of ice he gives us, coach Joel Quenneville said. He plays in all situations and important minutes and brings a lot to our back end, our team, our puck-possession game and quickness in all zones.

As much as Keith didnt like watching instead of playing, he said he did observe a few things in his down time.

I think definitely I learned we have a good team. Thats what I took out of it, he said. I think you always try to look at things, that its real easy playing the game (when youre) sitting upstairs and watching from the chair. There are a lot of good teams; its just a matter of playing as a team like we know how to.

Playoff drama highlights a busy week on High School Lites

Playoff drama highlights a busy week on High School Lites

High School Lites had a busy show as it was the final week of the regular season for IHSA boys basketball Class 3A and 4A. The Class 1A and 2A playoffs also tipped in boys basketball as the show has some thrilling regional titles that were decided in the final minute. And finally, the girls basketball Class 1A and 2A state semifinals were played on Friday as the state's top teams played in Bloomington.

Be sure to follow us on Twitter @NBCSPreps for the latest news and scores for IHSA basketball.

Wintrust Athlete of the Week: Richards wrestler Mia Palumbo

Saint Xavier Team of the Week: Simeon boys basketball

Highlights

Marshall shocks Leo in Class 2A regional final

Aurora Christian runs past Harvert Christian for 1A regional title

Buzzer-beater lifts Monticello over Gibson City for regional title

Jacobs goes unbeaten in Fox Valley with win over Dundee-Crown

West Aurora gets by rival East Aurora

Yorkville completes season sweep of DeKalb

Lemont escapes past T.F. North

Marshall needs OT to get past Teutopolis in girls 2A semifinals

Harlan takes down Eureka in 2A semifinals

Stockton runs by Okaw Valley in 1A

Schlarman races by Lebanon

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks hit road to face Blue Jackets

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NBC Sports Chicago

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks hit road to face Blue Jackets

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Columbus Blue Jackets tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 5:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. One big reunion.

The Blackhawks will square off with the Blue Jackets for the first time since Oct. 7, which was the second game of the season. In that game, they won 5-1 led by Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Brandon Saad, each of whom scored a goal and added an assist.

Of course, that was the first game since the offseason trade that sent Artemi Panarin to Columbus and Saad back to Chicago, along with Anton Forsberg. Artem Anisimov, of course, was part of the original deal that sent Saad to Columbus in 2015, so there are a lot of emotional ties between the two teams.

Forsberg didn't get a chance to face the Blue Jackets in the first meeting, but there's a chance he will this time with it being the second of a back-to-back and Jean-Francois Berube getting the start in Friday's 3-1 win over San Jose.

2. Panarin and Kane bromance.

The emotions of a difficult break-up have probably died down by now, but Panarin and Kane gave us this moment at center ice during pregame warmups in their first game against each other and it hit Chicago right in the feels:

Panarin has spent enough time apart from Kane for people to realize how big of a star he is in his own right, leading the Blue Jackets in all three scoring categories: goals (17), assists (32) and points (49).

He hasn't gone more than three games this season without recording a point, and is looking to extend his point streak to four games, which would tie a season high.

3. Struggling Blue Jackets special teams.

The Blue Jackets got off to a great start but are barely clinging onto a wild card spot going into Saturday's game, and a big reason for that slide is their lack of success on special teams. Usually one can pick up the slack for the other, but they've been brutal in both departments.

The Blue Jackets are 0-for-9 on the power play in their past five games and are ranked 31st overall, converting on only 14.1 percent of their opportunities. They also have own the 27th-ranked penalty kill with a 76.3 percent success rate.

So if there's an area the Blackhawks can exploit, it's that. But, you know, still be mindful of that Russian winger's one-timer from the faceoff circle.