Blackhawks

Refreshed Keith set to return to Blackhawks lineup

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Refreshed Keith set to return to Blackhawks lineup

Duncan Keith was keeping himself as busy or not busy as he could during his suspension: working out a little, walking his dogs a lot. And he got rest, a lot of rest.

And that rest for Keith, who has played a ton of minutes again this season, could prove very beneficial.

Keiths five-game suspension is in the books now, and he will return to the Blackhawks lineup on Thursday night when they play the Minnesota Wild. It wasnt fun sitting on the sidelines these last five games for Keith, who has had a massive workload these past two seasons. But he said he took advantage of the down time and feels good entering Thursday.

I feel good and stronger than I was before so I think hopefully it pays off, said Keith, who said he gained back a few pounds hes lost with all the minutes this season. When youve been playing and skating the whole season and suddenly you stop, it throws you off a bit. But Ive been trying to stay sharp so it shouldnt be that much of a problem.

The Blackhawks suffered a 6-1 drubbing to the Nashville Predators in Keiths first game out, but that was just a bad team game. The defense made do in his absence, with Brent Seabrook and Niklas Hjalmarsson pairing on that top group. The Blackhawks got through the stretch relatively well, going 2-1-2.

It just shows the depth we have, said Keith, who will obviously go back to his usual spot with Seabrook. I think we probably have the best depth at defensemen in the league, especially with the addition of (Johnny) Oduya. Obviously you want to be out there playing but they did a great job and played well.

Now with Keith back, the Blackhawks will basically be at full strength along the blue line.

Hes obviously a huge leader on this team. We miss him, Nick Leddy said. He makes everyone else better, so its exciting to have him back there.

Artem Anisimov keeps his vow, dons a mustache and raises his productivity in November

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Artem Anisimov keeps his vow, dons a mustache and raises his productivity in November

Artem Anisimov wasn’t happy with his October.

The Blackhawks center struggled the first month of the season. Maybe it was adjusting to new line mates after being with the same two for two seasons. Maybe it was just a slow start. Maybe it was more than that. Regardless, Anisimov was frustrated. So as October turned to November, Anisimov told Patrick Sharp that he was going to get back on track.

“He’s scoring lots of goals and he said he was going to in the month of November,” Sharp recalled. “So he’s backing it up.”

Anisimov is doing that, recording five goals in his last three games including a hat trick against his former team, the New York Rangers, on Wednesday. Since November’s start, Anisimov has seven goals.

“My start of the season was not great,” Anisimov said. “But I keep working hard and be focused and say, ‘OK, November. I’m going to step up in November and forward.’”

When told of Anisimov’s prediction to Sharp, coach Joel Quenneville said, “well, now he set a precedent. We’ll have to look for it every month now.

“Quite a standard he was looking to achieve and got off to a great start here,” Quenneville said. “When Arty’s at the net he makes good plays, takes it to the net, draws some traffic to him and opens up other lanes behind him. I still think he has a purpose defensively, which he can add to that line.”

Anisimov’s resurgence coincides with the Blackhawks doing the same thing; after an up-and-down start, both are finding their rhythm again. For the Blackhawks it could be finding some line chemistry. For Anisimov it might be the same thing; he and Kane have been back together since Nov. 12, and those two and Nick Schmaltz have combined for a dynamic second line.

Or is it that mustache that Anisimov’s growing for Movember?

“I thought when you were saying what you were saying (about Anisimov’s vow), he made that statement when he got Kaner back on his line. But I think it was right when he shaved his beard into a mustache. That’s when he took off,” Jonathan Toews said with a laugh. “So that’s the biggest correlation right there.”

OK, teaming up with Kane again probably looms larger. The two have had great chemistry dating back to the 2015-16 season, when they first teamed with Artemi Panarin. Kane’s puck possession helps free Anisimov up to do his work at the net, and he’s been capitalizing there.

“He’s had a great month. He’s just one of those guys who gets to the front of the net and finds ways to be productive,” Kane said. “Maybe seven or eight games ago people were talking about how he was struggling and now he’s having a great start to the season. It shows how a few games can change that but he’s been great for us, not only scoring a lot of goals but a lot of big goals to get some wins.”

Still, hockey players are a superstitious lot. Players have ribbed Anisimov about the mustache — “I asked him to serve me a sparkling water on the airplane because he looks like a waiter in France or something,” Sharp said. But considering Anisimov’s mustache and the points sprouted at the same time, they’re now imploring Anisimov to keep it.

“Yep,” Anisimov said with a grin. “That’s true.”

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: After 20 games, do we know the identity of this Blackhawks team?

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Blackhawks Talk Podcast: After 20 games, do we know the identity of this Blackhawks team?

On the latest Hawks Talk Podcast Tracey Myers and Jamal Mayers join Pat Boyle to discuss the teams wins over the Rangers and Penguins.  Have they figured some things out and what is the identity of this team after 20 games?

Jammer weighs in on Artem Anisimov’s big week and are there enough Hawks committed to net front presence?  They also discuss the surging play of the blue liners and did the Hawks fail to send a message to Evgeni Malkin, after he kneed Corey Crawford in the head?