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Blackhawks: Major minutes child's play for Duncan Keith

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Blackhawks: Major minutes child's play for Duncan Keith

Duncan Keith’s always logged a lot of ice time, even in regulation games; it’s just part of his makeup, dating back to his childhood.

“Maybe all those years of being on an outdoor rink all day long — when you play seven or eight hours as a kid — kind of makes playing five or six periods not that much,” Keith said.

Well, it’s one thing to play hours upon hours as a kid. You have boundless energy during those years. Playing 46 minutes in a triple-overtime game as a 31-year-old seems just a tad more daunting. In Keith’s case, though, apparently not. The Blackhawks defenseman played a long time and played well on Tuesday night, when the Blackhawks edged the Nashville Predators 3-2 in Game 4 of their first-round series.

[MORE: Blackhawks win triple-OT thriller over Predators in Game 4]

For Keith, this just comes with the postseason overtime-game drill: chances are he’ll log a lot of minutes and play in a lot of situations.

“I feel a little bit better than I did after Game 1,” said Keith, who played just under 40 minutes and had the game-winning goal in Game 1, a double-overtime contest. “I’m not sure if that’s just because the body gets used to it. Just like everybody else, you try to get as much sleep as you can and recovery as far as your nutrition and rest and I’m just doing all the little things to try and get your body ready to go at it again tomorrow night.”

As active as Keith was on the ice on Tuesday night, he was apparently as vocal during the intermissions.

“He was the one talking in the locker room, saying, ‘Let’s just wait these guys out. Let’s just be patient. Let’s just be smart. We can wear them out and find that one mistake they’re going to make, and we’re going to capitalize on it,’” Jonathan Toews said. “He was with it. He could play another 46 minutes I’m sure. He was willing to do whatever it took to win last night, for sure.”

[SHOP: Get a Duncan Keith jersey here]

Coach Joel Quenneville said following Game 4 that it was no surprise that Keith could play those minutes and play them well. He’s done it over enough regular seasons — Keith was seventh in the NHL in time on ice/game this season, averaging 25 minutes, 33 seconds a night. Despite leading the team in TOI/game — Brent Seabrook is next at 22:10 a night — Keith downplays the marathon outings.

“I know it’s a lot of hockey, a lot of games in a short period of time. I think we’ve got a lot of guys on the team who played a lot of minutes,” he said. “It’s no different there where when we do have time off you try to recover and do the best job you can to get the body ready to go for the next game.”

Playing a ton of minutes is just what Keith does. If it’s taxing, he’s not saying. Perhaps he’s channeling his inner kid, the one who used to play outdoor hockey for hours on end, even today.

“I think as I’ve gotten older I’ve been smarter in researching and learning ways to take care of the body. I think that helps,” Keith said. “I feel the same way I did when I was 22.”

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.

Jean-Francois Berube impressed in his first Blackhawks start

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USA TODAY

Jean-Francois Berube impressed in his first Blackhawks start

Jean-Francois Berube got his first start of the season on Friday night, and it couldn't have gone any better.

The 26-year-old goaltender stopped 42 of 43 shots, a career-high for him in saves, in the Blackhawks' 3-1 win over the San Jose Sharks at the United Center.

Since Corey Crawford went down with a head injury last December, the Blackhawks have been searching for consistency in the crease. 

The pair of Anton Forsberg and Jeff Glass — who was assigned to Rockford on Feb. 15 and replaced with Berube — have had their ups and downs since then. With the Blackhawks out of the playoff picture, Berube had an opportunity showcase his skills, and he didn't disappoint.

"We were very happy with him," said coach Joel Quenneville. "I thought he did a great job. He was comfortable. I thought he was very patient in his net. Absorbing a lot of pucks with people in front of him was good. Closed some gaps and got … of the top of the paint. Rebound control was effective. Nice response from a long absence."

Berube's last — and only — appearance with the Blackhawks prior to Friday's game came on Dec. 6, relieving Forsberg in a game against the Washington Capitals. He recorded 12 saves of 14 shots. 

When Crawford got injured, Berube was the primary candidate to become the team's backup goaltender. The only problem? He was injured too, so the Blackhawks promoted Glass.

"I didn't want to sit and think about it," Berube said of his injury. "At the same time, it was great for Glasser. He was one of those guys that probably deserved it earlier in his career and he finally got his chance. Sometimes you need a guy to go down to have your chance. So I was mostly happy for him.

On Friday night, he got his chance.

"You always want to have a good impression for your first game," Berube said. "I know what I can do at this level, so it was just a matter of getting the opportunity to play and showing people what I can do."

Celebrating his 22nd birthday, Nick Schmaltz also had a goal and an assist. Artem Anisimov scored an empty-netter.

"It's a lot more fun coming to the rink when you're winning, enjoying each other, playing well as a team," Schmaltz said of the Blackhawks' win, which have now won three of their last four games. "Hopefully we can keep that good energy and bring it to the rink every day, and build off of that.

"You never know where this team can go, a lot of great players, lots of guys that have had a lot of success. Hopefully we can continue to put together solid efforts."