Duncan Keith wasn’t feeling right about a month ago.
It was that right knee, the one on which he had surgery last October, so Keith decided not to play for Team Canada in the World Cup of Hockey in Toronto. Instead he focused on getting that knee fully healed and preparing for this season with the Blackhawks.
A month later, it’s turning out to be a wise decision.
Keith won’t play in Saturday’s scrimmage but he practiced on Friday when the Blackhawks opened training camp at Johnny’s IceHouse West. While he won’t be doing everything this preseason — assistant coach Mike Kitchen said Keith may not play in any scrimmages — Keith is feeling better than he did when he bowed out of World Cup.
“It's just kind of been basically going on for a while now. I tried to use some time this summer to rest it and do some different things. Once I started skating it didn't react very well so I had to do a few different things to try and get it ready,” Keith said. “It was disappointing I wasn't ready to go for the World Cup. But maybe I wouldn't be where I am right now if I didn't take the time to let it rest and not start skating again until a couple of weeks ago.”
Brent Seabrook wasn’t surprised that Keith didn’t show much of an issue.
“That guy is amazing. It looks like he hasn’t missed a step. But that’s Dunc for you,” Seabrook said. “He’s one of those kind of guys.
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Keith said he’s been skating for about a month now, so the 25-minute practice on Friday was no problem.
Assistant coach Mike Kitchen said Keith “should be fine” for the season opener. Kitchen added that they won’t push Keith this preseason, They’ll also leave it up to Keith to decide if he wants to play a later scrimmage. Considering how much Keith plays during the season, Kitchen said they’re going to be as cautious as possible these next two-plus weeks. And they’ll try to rein in the workaholic Keith as much as they can.
“He wanted to go out for two practices, and we said, ‘No, just go one,’” Kitchen said. “We’re so early in camp. There’s no reason for us to push him at all.”
As far as Keith’s fitness level, Kitchen has no worries in that department, either.
“He brought that up the other day. I watched him before camp started and he was really pushing himself. I said, ‘How can you push yourself so hard? You’re a fit guy anyway.’ You don’t lose it. Those kind of guys don’t lose their fitness and are so conscious of it,” Kitchen said. “He’s at such a high level and it doesn’t take much for him to maintain that level.”
Keith was disappointed to miss World Cup of Hockey but naturally he likes what Team Canada is doing there thus far — “I think they’re going to win, but we’ll see what happens.” But Keith had to do what was best for him and the Blackhawks. Right now, he’s optimistic he’ll be ready to start the season.
“There's no concern to be honest with you. It's just like any type of thing you go through where you do the rehab and you get it ready, and when you're ready to play you're playing and there's no excuses by then,” Keith said. “I'm confident, I feel strong out there. I feel like this offseason has given me a lot of time to basically recover from six, seven, eight seasons prior to that. Since I haven't skated in a long time and getting back on the ice back here in September, I think that's all it is, is just kind of shaking some of that rust off and making sure my knee is getting better and better.”