Blackhawks

Blackhawks' Duncan Keith 'excited' to be skating again

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Blackhawks' Duncan Keith 'excited' to be skating again

Duncan Keith skated with his teammates on Sunday morning, looking pretty good for a guy who had right knee surgery about three weeks ago.

“Obviously I don’t think the leg is as strong as it needs to be,” said Keith. “But definitely feel pretty good for not skating.”

Keith is still about a week away from being eligible to return — since he’s on long-term injured reserve, he couldn’t play until the Blackhawks face St. Louis on Saturday. While there’s no guarantee he would be back that soon, there’s no doubt the Blackhawks defenseman is making great progress following surgery for a torn right meniscus.

“I was excited to get out there today with the guys. Excited the last couple of days to skate,” said Keith, who skated with Marian Hossa (lower body) the past few days. “One step at a time. It’s nice to be out there in the morning skate and pass the puck around with the team and try to get going.”

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Keith said he suffered his knee injury during the Blackhawks’ Stanley Cup Final series against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Coach Joel Quenneville said the Blackhawks didn’t know Keith was hurting that bad at the time, and Keith said he didn’t get it checked out during the playoffs. Despite the injury, Keith ended up hoisting his third Cup and was unanimously voted as the Conn Smythe Trophy winner. But Keith said the injury felt better over the summer, so he didn’t consider doing anything at that time.

“It was just one of those things where you take some time off and you don’t feel it much. I did different type of training where there wasn’t a lot of heavy pounding and things like that and then once you get skating it didn’t feel too bad,” Keith said. “There are a lot of nicks and bruises and pains during your hockey career or throughout a series or season and you don’t think about things too much. You just battle through things and something goes away and then starts to get worse you have to take a look at it.”

That look came this fall. Once Keith started skating again this fall, “I really noticed it and it was bothering me a lot.”

“It was a mutual decision to try and get it done rather than try to play through something like that all year,” Keith said. “And now I feel like I can be at my best.”

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Hossa said he’s not surprised that Keith is making a quick recovery.

"I skated with Duncs the last few days on the ice, and you know, he seems like he didn't have anything done to his ... you know, injury,” Hossa said. “He seems really strong and he's still got, like, definitely some time to go, but he seems really comfortable out there.”

Keith is making great progress. Yes, he could play vs. St. Louis, although that still seems a bit of a long shot — “fingers crossed that it could be that soon, but we’ll see when he gets in some contact with us this week,” Quenneville said. As anxious as Keith is to get back onto the ice, he’s nevertheless doing it with a surgically repaired knee. So he’ll take his time.

“We’ve talked to the trainers about that and they’ve been really good about trying to make sure I’m doing one step at a time and not skipping any steps,” Keith said. “I’ll try to stick with that program and just keep going one day at a time and working at it.”

How Blackhawks plan to handle Corey Crawford's workload

How Blackhawks plan to handle Corey Crawford's workload

Corey Crawford is back and it didn't look like he skipped much of a beat. The Blackhawks were handed their first regulation loss of the season to the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday, but the 33-year-old netminder stopped 27 of 30 shots (.900 save percentage) in his season debut and made several timely saves to keep his team in it.

In the larger picture, it was a win based on how well Crawford looked between the pipes.

"Yeah, I think it is," coach Joel Quenneville said after practice on Friday. "It's one of things we were wondering, how he would handle post-game and how he came in today. Very encouraging signs. He felt good in all aspects of what he went through and dealt with, and practiced well today too, so that was good."

The first one is in the books.

But what's the plan going forward? Will Crawford be on a "pitch count" or will they treat him like they have in past seasons when he was healthy?

In the past, Crawford has generally started somewhere in between 55-58 games per season. Part of that has been because of injuries. Another part is the Blackhawks have had reliable backups, which allowed them to give Crawford an extra night off here and there to keep him fresh.

It's not unreasonable, though, to think Crawford could flirt with 50 starts, considering he missed only five games to start the season. And they can still accomplish that by playing it safe.

The Blackhawks have 13 more back-to-backs this season, which gives them the opportunity to start Cam Ward at some point in each of them. That leaves room for another 15 or so starts to sprinkle in for Ward that could serve as rest days for Crawford and still being on track to start around 50.

Obviously, the Blackhawks want to be careful with how much they ask of Crawford because concussions are tricky to deal with and every player responds differently to it.

His return comes at a time where the Blackhawks are slated to play seven games in 11 days after playing just two in the previous 10. Thursday marked the start of that stretch.

"He’ll tell us how he feels and we’ll go from there and make those decisions," Quenneville said.

The Blackhawks have been on record saying they prefer not to carry three goaltenders. But in this case it makes sense. At least in the short term.

Quenneville said Friday that the Blackhawks will reevaluate the situation at the end of the weekend following the beginning of a busy stretch where they'll play three games in four days.

"Yeah, that’s the mindset," he said. "Let’s see how we handle these three in four and then we’ll address it."

Crawford is expected to start on Saturday in Columbus, making it his second start in three days. That's when they'll get a better sense of how he's handling things.

If it were up to him, Crawford said he feels he's prepared for it.

"Yeah, sure," Crawford said. "Why not? I've been working hard with [strength and conditioning coach Paul Goodman]. He's got me where I need to be, so I'm in shape right now. Why not?"

Hawks Talk Podcast: Thoughts on Corey Crawford's season debut

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USA TODAY

Hawks Talk Podcast: Thoughts on Corey Crawford's season debut

In the latest Hawks Talk Podcast, Pat Boyle, Jamal Mayers and Charlie Roumeliotis recap Corey Crawford’s season debut after missing nearly 10 months with a concussion.

Mayers talks about the Kitty system that Niklas Hjalmarsson and Vinnie Hinostroza probably dealt with in their returns to Chicago.

The guys also discuss what’s next for Crawford, the upcoming matchup against Artemi Panarin and the Columbus Blue Jackets, and the Blackhawks’ biggest areas for improvement.

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below, and be sure to subscribe, rate us and write a review!