Duncan Keith skated with his teammates on Sunday morning, looking pretty good for a guy who had right knee surgery about three weeks ago.
“Obviously I don’t think the leg is as strong as it needs to be,” said Keith. “But definitely feel pretty good for not skating.”
Keith is still about a week away from being eligible to return — since he’s on long-term injured reserve, he couldn’t play until the Blackhawks face St. Louis on Saturday. While there’s no guarantee he would be back that soon, there’s no doubt the Blackhawks defenseman is making great progress following surgery for a torn right meniscus.
“I was excited to get out there today with the guys. Excited the last couple of days to skate,” said Keith, who skated with Marian Hossa (lower body) the past few days. “One step at a time. It’s nice to be out there in the morning skate and pass the puck around with the team and try to get going.”
[MORE HAWKS: Marko Dano's approach benefits him with Blackhawks]
Keith said he suffered his knee injury during the Blackhawks’ Stanley Cup Final series against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Coach Joel Quenneville said the Blackhawks didn’t know Keith was hurting that bad at the time, and Keith said he didn’t get it checked out during the playoffs. Despite the injury, Keith ended up hoisting his third Cup and was unanimously voted as the Conn Smythe Trophy winner. But Keith said the injury felt better over the summer, so he didn’t consider doing anything at that time.
“It was just one of those things where you take some time off and you don’t feel it much. I did different type of training where there wasn’t a lot of heavy pounding and things like that and then once you get skating it didn’t feel too bad,” Keith said. “There are a lot of nicks and bruises and pains during your hockey career or throughout a series or season and you don’t think about things too much. You just battle through things and something goes away and then starts to get worse you have to take a look at it.”
That look came this fall. Once Keith started skating again this fall, “I really noticed it and it was bothering me a lot.”
“It was a mutual decision to try and get it done rather than try to play through something like that all year,” Keith said. “And now I feel like I can be at my best.”
[NBC SHOP: Get your Blackhawks gear right here]
Hossa said he’s not surprised that Keith is making a quick recovery.
"I skated with Duncs the last few days on the ice, and you know, he seems like he didn't have anything done to his ... you know, injury,” Hossa said. “He seems really strong and he's still got, like, definitely some time to go, but he seems really comfortable out there.”
Keith is making great progress. Yes, he could play vs. St. Louis, although that still seems a bit of a long shot — “fingers crossed that it could be that soon, but we’ll see when he gets in some contact with us this week,” Quenneville said. As anxious as Keith is to get back onto the ice, he’s nevertheless doing it with a surgically repaired knee. So he’ll take his time.
“We’ve talked to the trainers about that and they’ve been really good about trying to make sure I’m doing one step at a time and not skipping any steps,” Keith said. “I’ll try to stick with that program and just keep going one day at a time and working at it.”