Trevor van Riemsdyk knows what the news means as much as anyone.
With all-everything defenseman Duncan Keith sidelined 4-6 weeks after right-knee surgery, it’s now all hands on deck. Everyone has to do a little bit more. And for a Blackhawks defensive corps that has suddenly gotten much younger and much more experienced, it’s going to take everyone contributing.
“It’ll be a concerted effort, obviously, to fill those minutes,” van Riemsdyk said following Tuesday’s practice. “It’s going to take a little bit from everyone.”
Indeed, no one guy is going to replace Keith, the two-time Norris and one-time Conn Smythe Trophy winner who can seemingly play endless minutes, and play them at a high level. Still, the Blackhawks have to figure out what to do for about a month, without changing their style drastically.
“We don’t want to change too much in our approach,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “Guys are going to know they’re going to get more responsibility. With our team game, we’ll emphasize playing the right way. I don’t think you want to change too much in how you focus going into a game. Individually, guys are going to be assuming more and I’m sure they’re excited about it.”
So what do the Blackhawks do? For starters, Quenneville said Niklas Hjalmarsson will go back to his usual left side. Hjalmarsson has been on the right with Keith, who has been his partner in this early season. He played on the right when paired with Johnny Oduya in seasons past, too, but the left is his natural side. He and van Riemsdyk were paired in some drills on Tuesday. Seabrook remained with Viktor Svedberg and Trevor Daley is now with David Rundblad, who will likely draw back into the lineup.
Rundblad has been a healthy scratch for all but one game this regular season.
“It’s a big opportunity for me to be playing,” he said. “It’s been tough not playing these last few games, so of course I’m excited. It’s never fun to see a teammate get hurt. I just have to make the best of the situation and do my best.”
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It’s a “possibility,” Quenneville said, that the Blackhawks put Keith on long-term injured reserve – players on LTIR have to be out for 10 games and 24 days. That would free up some salary-cap room in case the Blackhawks want to recall another defenseman. Michal Rozsival, who’s already on LTIR, is eligible to come off it around Oct. 29. Quenneville said Rozsival (ankle) should be close to being ready by the end of this month, so that would help the Blackhawks get another veteran back on the blue line.
Young or veteran, experienced or not, the remaining Blackhawks defensemen have that much more responsibility for a few weeks.
“You feel bad but you want to take it upon yourself, if you can, to be that much more ready, that much more dialed in because it’ll take a team effort to replace those minutes,” van Riemsdyk said. “No one guy can do that.”