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Blackhawks: Major minutes child's play for Duncan Keith

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Blackhawks: Major minutes child's play for Duncan Keith

Duncan Keith’s always logged a lot of ice time, even in regulation games; it’s just part of his makeup, dating back to his childhood.

“Maybe all those years of being on an outdoor rink all day long — when you play seven or eight hours as a kid — kind of makes playing five or six periods not that much,” Keith said.

Well, it’s one thing to play hours upon hours as a kid. You have boundless energy during those years. Playing 46 minutes in a triple-overtime game as a 31-year-old seems just a tad more daunting. In Keith’s case, though, apparently not. The Blackhawks defenseman played a long time and played well on Tuesday night, when the Blackhawks edged the Nashville Predators 3-2 in Game 4 of their first-round series.

[MORE: Blackhawks win triple-OT thriller over Predators in Game 4]

For Keith, this just comes with the postseason overtime-game drill: chances are he’ll log a lot of minutes and play in a lot of situations.

“I feel a little bit better than I did after Game 1,” said Keith, who played just under 40 minutes and had the game-winning goal in Game 1, a double-overtime contest. “I’m not sure if that’s just because the body gets used to it. Just like everybody else, you try to get as much sleep as you can and recovery as far as your nutrition and rest and I’m just doing all the little things to try and get your body ready to go at it again tomorrow night.”

As active as Keith was on the ice on Tuesday night, he was apparently as vocal during the intermissions.

“He was the one talking in the locker room, saying, ‘Let’s just wait these guys out. Let’s just be patient. Let’s just be smart. We can wear them out and find that one mistake they’re going to make, and we’re going to capitalize on it,’” Jonathan Toews said. “He was with it. He could play another 46 minutes I’m sure. He was willing to do whatever it took to win last night, for sure.”

[SHOP: Get a Duncan Keith jersey here]

Coach Joel Quenneville said following Game 4 that it was no surprise that Keith could play those minutes and play them well. He’s done it over enough regular seasons — Keith was seventh in the NHL in time on ice/game this season, averaging 25 minutes, 33 seconds a night. Despite leading the team in TOI/game — Brent Seabrook is next at 22:10 a night — Keith downplays the marathon outings.

“I know it’s a lot of hockey, a lot of games in a short period of time. I think we’ve got a lot of guys on the team who played a lot of minutes,” he said. “It’s no different there where when we do have time off you try to recover and do the best job you can to get the body ready to go for the next game.”

Playing a ton of minutes is just what Keith does. If it’s taxing, he’s not saying. Perhaps he’s channeling his inner kid, the one who used to play outdoor hockey for hours on end, even today.

“I think as I’ve gotten older I’ve been smarter in researching and learning ways to take care of the body. I think that helps,” Keith said. “I feel the same way I did when I was 22.”

Artemi Panarin thought he'd play whole career with Blackhawks

Artemi Panarin thought he'd play whole career with Blackhawks

The honest truth is that for the Blackhawks, Artemi Panarin is the one that got away. A new truth, perhaps harder to swallow, is that the "Breadman" never wanted to leave.

Following Wednesday night's 6-3 Hawks' loss to the Rangers, in which Panarin scored his 30th goal of the season, he told the Daily Herald's John Dietz that he expected to play his entire career in a Blackhawks sweater.

"When I played here in Chicago I [thought] I would play here my whole life," said Panarin, whose 79 points are good for fifth in the league this season. "And then that happened. It still confuses me."

Panarin, now 28, had 151 points (61 goals, 90 assists) with Chicago in two seasons after signing a free-agent contract on May 1, 2015. The winger previously played in the Kontinental Hockey League before winning the Calder Trophy in 2016 as the NHL's top rookie. 

Panarin immediately established an undeniable chemistry with Patrick Kane, which aided Kane in grabbing the Hart Trophy as the league's MVP in 2016.

"Obviously an amazing player, a player that you'd pay to watch play the game," Kane said of Panarin. "Still try to stay pretty close with him and stay in contact and just kind of catch up here and there throughout the season."

During his second season with Chicago, Panarin agreed to a two-year $12 million contract, he could have gotten more elsewhere. 

In June 2017, the Blackhawks traded the dynamic winger to the Columbus Blue Jackets, along with forward Tyler Motte and a draft pick, to re-acquire Brandon Saad and get goalie Anton Forsberg and a pick. 

"I was not ready for that," Panarin said. "It was a big surprise for me. I feel bad after trade."

Now, the man of bread is locked up for six more years after this one with the Rangers at an AAV north of $11.6 million and his contract has a no movement clause. 

"I love Chicago," Panarin said. "Nice every time I come here. Enjoy it. It's a great city and thanks [to] the fans for a warm welcome. I appreciate it."

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Lack of energy comes at wrong time for Blackhawks: 'Makes you angry'

Lack of energy comes at wrong time for Blackhawks: 'Makes you angry'

Effort has not been a major concern for the Blackhawks this season. For the most part it's been there, and you could see it over the last two months when they started to string together a run.

But Wednesday, it was.

The Blackhawks didn't have a great first period. They had a decent second. Things went off the rails in the third. 

The Blackhawks lost focus, and the compete level wasn't nearly where it needed to be in their first home game in exactly two weeks after giving up five third-period goals, four of which came in a span of 7:08.

"Makes you angry," head coach Jeremy Colliton said following a 6-3 loss to the New York Rangers. "Because it's a game that you're looking for like, we needed this game. We didn't do the things right from the start to put ourselves in the best position to win. We just didn't have enough guys ready to play."

The Blackhawks picked up two out of a possible 10 points on their five-game road trip in Western Canada, but that wasn't necessarily indicative of how they played. All five games were there for the taking but they squandered opportunities to do so. A power-play goal here or there could've been the difference, but instead their drought is now up to 0-for-17 in their past six games.

It was a tough road trip for the Blackhawks, not just because they didn't get the desired results, but because it was a demanding travel schedule that started and ended in Winnipeg. But they wouldn't use that as an excuse even though it's a valid one at this time of year.

"To me, the story of the game tonight is, you're going to have games throughout the year where you don't have energy, where it's hard to find," Jonathan Toews said. "You've got to find the motivation to go out there and play your best game. It's just a mental thing that you have to do and that's just the name of the game, playing NHL hockey. That's one of the challenging things that if you want to make the playoffs and you want to be a winning team you're not going to feel at your best every night.

"There's going to be tough travel, tough schedule, a lot of adversity, things that pile up in your way and you've got to find a way to overcome it. So we didn't do that tonight." 

With Wednesday's loss, the Blackhawks fell to 1-5-2 in their past eight games after going 12-5-0 in their previous 17. They remain eight points out of the final wildcard spot in the Western Conference but have four teams to jump, two of which have a game in hand.

Playoffs seem like a pipedream at this point, and you have to wonder how this latest spiral could impact the Blackhawks' plans ahead of the Feb. 24 trade deadline. It's always a challenging time of year for players, especially on teams on the outside looking in, but that doesn't mean it's time to wave the white flag.

"We have to think really short-term," Colliton said. "And that's tomorrow, how are we going to prepare? Because we didn't prepare well enough. The coaches have to do a better job of preparing the team, the team needs to do a better job of preparing each other, and individually they've got to do a better job of preparing themselves to play."

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