Blackhawks' defense readjusts without Duncan Keith


Blackhawks' defense readjusts without Duncan Keith

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.

[MORE: Blackhawks: Duncan Keith out 4 to 6 weeks after knee surgery]

“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.”

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

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.”

Blackhawks make it official: Corey Crawford is back

Blackhawks make it official: Corey Crawford is back

He’s back.

Corey Crawford will start in goal for the first time since Dec. 23, 2017 when the Blackhawks host the Arizona Coyotes, coach Joel Quenneville confirmed after morning skate on Thursday morning.

"It’s exciting," Quenneville said. "I’m sure he’s looking forward to it and we’re all excited about it as well. It’ll be a fun situation for the guys, seeing him back in the net as well. So we’re looking for everyone to be excited about tonight’s game."

The two-time Stanley Cup champion was medically cleared to practice from his concussion on Oct. 1, but the Blackhawks wanted to give Crawford as much time as he needed to get his conditioning and puck-tracking skills up to game speed before putting him into game action.

"It feels good to be back to myself," Crawford said on Wednesday. "I'm feeling good, I'm feeling clear. It was a pretty long process. ... Practices have been great, been getting timing a little bit more and getting up to speed and reading shots and all that, so it'll be nice to finally get in one."

To make room for Crawford on the 23-man roster, the Blackhawks will assign forward Luke Johnson to the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League. Brandon Saad, who wore a white healthy scratch jersey all week at practice, will take his spot in the lineup.

For now, the Blackhawks will hang on to Anton Forsberg and carry three goaltenders as insurance as they get ready to start a seven-games-in-11-days stretch.

Crawford was 16-9-2 with a 2.27 goals against average, .929 save percentage and two shutouts in 28 games last season. The Blackhawks were 17-30-8 without him and finished last in the Central Division.

Sports Talk Live Podcast: Is Crawford ready to go?


Sports Talk Live Podcast: Is Crawford ready to go?

Jimmy Greenfield, Connor McKnight, and Matt Spiegel join Kap on the panel to discuss Corey Crawford back on the ice for the first time in 10 months. The Bears have good news when it comes to Khalil Mack, who injured his ankle against the Dolphins.

Plus, Fred Hoiberg announces that Jabari Parker is coming off the bench for the season opener.

Listen to the full episode here or via the embedded player below: