The Blackhawks said they're going to need help from "a little bit of everyone" in Duncan Keith's absence, not just on defense.
On Saturday, it was Ryan Garbutt who noticeably stepped up in the Blackhawks' 1-0 overtime win over the Tampa Bay Lighting in a rematch of last year's Stanley Cup Final, providing a spark on the third line.
"I thought he had a really good game," coach Joel Quenneville said after the game. "Much more speed, much more puck possession. That line was a factor as the game progressed."
Garbutt, who was a healthy scratch last week against Washington, logged 9 minutes, 51 seconds of ice time — his third-lowest of the season — against the Lightning, but his impact was far greater.
In his previous six games, Garbutt had recorded a total of 11 shots on goal. He also had just two combined shots in his last three games. On Saturday alone, he registered six, all of which came in the first two periods.
"It was just one of those games where there were a lot of chances," Garbutt said. "Unfortunately I couldn't get one past (Lightning goaltender Kristers Gudlevskis), but I feel like the more chances I get, the better I play."
Garbutt, who was acquired from the Dallas Stars in the offseason for Patrick Sharp, admitted he's still trying to get accustomed to playing the Blackhawks' style of play, but on a night they committed four penalties for the second straight game, he proved to be valuable on both special teams and even strength.
"Huge," Jonathan Toews, who scored the game-winning goal 17 seconds into overtime, responded when asked about Garbutt's — and other newcomer Artem Anisimov's — performance. "It's nice to have those two extra guys skating and playing smart defensively in the rotation. I think it keeps more guys involved in the game and obviously a game like tonight, or even the last one against Florida, where we ran into some penalty trouble, we keep our legs fresh when we're (on the penalty kill) and we go back to 5-on-5 too, so those guys have been huge for us so far."
Without Keith, who's expected to miss four-to-six weeks after having surgery to repair a right meniscal tear, the Blackhawks held the Florida Panthers, who were averaging nearly 30 shots per game entering Thursday, to a season-low 18 shots on goal and followed that up by shutting out the reigning Eastern Conference champions, who entered Saturday tied for the sixth-most goals scored and the eighth-ranked power play, picking up exactly where they left off last June.
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Not a bad response for a team that lost their ironman on the blue line.
But Garbutt, who knows just how important Keith is on defense despite not being a part of last year's Stanley Cup run, won't take credit for it all.
"I think it's everyone stepping up, forwards and the (defense)," Garbutt said. "We've got guys playing big minutes back there. (Trevor van Riemsdyk) is playing great and getting better every game; same with (Viktor) Svedberg. All those guys are just picking up the slack and everyone's been working a little bit harder."
While he didn't have anything to show for it, Garbutt is slowly finding his rhythm and will look to build off arguably his best performance in a Blackhawks uniform yet.
"It's not easy to score in the National Hockey League," he said. "You've got to make sure to take advantage of your opportunities. I feel like I'm getting better every game."