Blackhawks

Duncan Keith's injury will test Blackhawks' depth and character

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USA Today

Duncan Keith's injury will test Blackhawks' depth and character

The Blackhawks were near the bottom of the NHL in man-games lost last season, but the injury bug is starting to hit them all at once this season and it's coming at an inopportune time.

With Drake Caggiula and Dylan Strome both in concussion protocol and Connor Murphy recently back from a groin injury, Duncan Keith is the latest victim to be sidelined. And his presence will certainly be missed on the back end.

The two-time Norris Trophy winner left Friday's 5-2 loss to the Colorado Avalanche with a groin injury and did not return. He logged 9:30 of ice time before exiting in the second period, with his final shift coming at the 9:45 mark after the Avalanche scored their fourth goal.

It sounds like it's an injury Keith has been dealing with for some time, which head coach Jeremy Colliton indicated has been a reason for Keith's recent maintenance days from practice.

"Obviously we try to take care of it and at some point he just felt he couldn't play," Colliton said. "He's been playing a lot and it's a heavy schedule, so we've been trying to give him off days and optionals and what not. I'm not sure how serious it is... I'm not even sure exactly what the end diagnosis is going to be."

All the Blackhawks know right now is Keith will not travel to Colorado for the second of a home-and-home series against the Avalanche on Saturday, meaning the 36-year-old blue-liner will miss his first game since April 6, 2017, ending a 189-game Iron Man streak.

Since Keith entered the NHL during the 2005-06 season, the Blackhawks have played in 1,139 regular-season games. Keith has missed only 38 of those: 17 from injuries, 10 from suspensions, seven from rest and three from illness. 

It's going to be an unusual feeling for the Blackhawks not to have Keith in the lineup on Saturday, and they're hoping his absence won't be any longer than that.

"It's one of those things you're so used to having him on the back end doing what he does, it's almost like you take it for granted," Jonathan Toews said. "A lot of minutes he plays, what he does offensively and defensively, just how he makes the game easier on his own partner and everyone around him too. Hopefully he'll be back soon. Not used to being out there without a guy like him and definitely hurts a lot."  

With Keith being ruled out, the Blackhawks recalled defenseman Ian McCoshen from the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League and re-assigned Matthew Highmore. But filling Keith's role will require an all-hands-on-deck approach.

"It's opportunity for guys to show they can do more for us," Colliton said. "Every team in the league goes through it and we're going to go through it and we've got to find a way to get points anyway."

The Blackhawks don't need to look very far for inspiration on how to overcome key injuries. The Avalanche rolled past the Blackhawks on Friday and did so without several crucial pieces to their puzzle, including the team's third-leading scorer Andre Burakovsky, bottom-six winger Matt Calvert, top pairing defenseman Erik Johnson, captain Gabriel Landeskog, two-time 80-point-getter Mikko Rantanen and versatile forward Colin Wilson.

The Blackhawks' depth is about to be tested, and so is their character, especially if Keith is out for an extended period. Good teams find a way to push through. Can the Blackhawks prove to be one of them?

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Struggling Blackhawks still trying to find a path forward

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AP

Struggling Blackhawks still trying to find a path forward

ST. LOUIS — One year ago today, the Blackhawks were enjoying an off-day after snapping their second eight-game losing streak of the season with a 6-3 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins. Adjustments were still being made under new head coach Jeremy Colliton, but there was at least some optimism that light would be at the end of the tunnel once they all got on the same page.

The Blackhawks have an off-day on Friday, but they’re in a much different place this time around. And not in a good way.

After losing for the ninth time in 12 games (3-7-2) and third straight (0-2-1), the Blackhawks are making standings watching irrelevant in Chicago in a year where it shouldn’t be. Their playoff chances are slipping away quicker than an odd-man rush and nobody wants to start looking ahead to the 2020 NHL Draft class because they shouldn’t be in this position again.

The inconsistency issues are real, the injuries continue to mount, the losses are getting uglier and the schedule is only getting tougher. The Blackhawks aren’t just losing hockey games. They’re not even giving themselves a chance. 

In their last six losses, the Blackhawks have been outscored 29-11 for a minus-18 goal differential. They’ve given up at least five goals in four of them and have one regulation win since Nov. 17.

And it’s hard to see how it can get better.

The easiest in-season change to make when a team with playoff expectations is underperforming is to change the voice and message the players are listening to. But the Blackhawks played that card last season.

In 2015-16, the Blackhawks deservedly earned a pass for running out of gas in the first round after coming off a season in which they captured a third Stanley Cup in six years.

In 2016-17, the Blackhawks called being swept in the first round by Nashville as the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference a "wake-up call" and promised changes.

In 2017-18, the Blackhawks pointed to Corey Crawford’s season-ending injury in December as a reason for their second-half spiral.

In 2018-19, the Blackhawks preached patience after making a coaching change for the first time in 10 years.

In 2019-20, there is no excuse. The Blackhawks had another long offseason to get it right and Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews were coming off career statistical seasons at age 30. The roster is better but the product on the ice hasn’t changed.

The tide eventually might turn for the Blackhawks, but right now it's difficult to see a path for how it will.

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Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Robin Lehner calls out team defense plus Mike Gapski on his 2500 games with the Blackhawks

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USA Today

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Robin Lehner calls out team defense plus Mike Gapski on his 2500 games with the Blackhawks

Another night and another awful showing by the Blackhawks team defense, and this time, Robin Lehner let the team hear about it. Pat Boyle, Adam Burish and Scott King discuss the Blackhawks' ugly loss to the Coyotes and whether there should be some more line mixing happening soon. Plus, head athletic trainer Mike Gapski took part in his 2500th game with the Blackhawks and he sat down with Pat Foley 1-on-1 to re-live his 33 years with the organization.

1:13 - The odd-man rushes are piling up against this defense

5:54 - Is the power play getting going kinda maybe a little bit?

7:43 - Should Jeremy Colliton mix up the lines once again?

9:20 - The Kirby Dach playing-time dilemma

13:45 - Celebrating Mike Gapski's 2500 games with the Blackhawks

17:00 - Pat Foley's 1-on-1 interview with Mike Gapski

Listen here or via the embedded player below:

Blackhawks Talk Podcast

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Attention Dish and Sling customers! You have lost your Blackhawks games on NBC Sports Chicago. To switch providers, visit mysportschicago.com.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Blackhawks easily on your device.