Blackhawks

Blackhawks will 'move on and learn' from Duncan Keith suspension

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Blackhawks will 'move on and learn' from Duncan Keith suspension

By Jeff Hamilton

WINNIPEG - The Blackhawks may be without Duncan Keith for the rest of the regular season and Game 1 of their first round playoff series, but they know it could have been worse.

Keith, who was handed down a six-game suspension by the NHL’s Department of Player Safety Friday evening for a high-stick on Minnesota forward Charlie Coyle in the first period of Tuesday’s loss to the Wild, will certainly be missed. After all, the Hawks will be missing their best player down the stretch, the guy they lean on to log the most minutes, many of which come during the most important situations in a game.

[MORE: Duncan Keith suspended six games, will miss first postseason game]

But they also know he’ll return; a return that will come in time for what they hope will be another deep postseason run in defending last year’s title. And it’s because of that they can take the news with a deep breath, and a sigh or relief.

“I’m not the one who picks the amount of games so the less, the better,” said Scott Darling, who made 28 saves in a 5-4 overtime win over the Jets Friday night to close out a four-game road trip with a record of 3-1.

“We’re going to miss him no matter what but it could have been more so we’re happy it’s only one (playoff) game.”

Brent Seabrook, the hero in Friday’s game with the game-winning goal one minute four seconds into overtime, also made no bones about the length of Keith’s suspension. But he also knows what it means to lose a leader both on and off ice. And the way the team has been playing — the Hawks are 4-5-1 in their last 10 games — he's aware of the up-hill battle ahead of him and his teammates.

[SHOP: Get your Blackhawks gear right here]

“We’re obviously glad it’s not more (games),” he said. “He’s such a valuable part of this team and Game 1 of the playoffs, it’s going to be a war as it always is. It’s a team of 20 players, being out there we’re all going to have to band together and pick up the slack for Dunc and we’re sure he’ll be coming for Game 2.”

“As a group of six back there (on defense) we’re going to have to be at our best. We got to take some of the load on our shoulders and get the job done.”

As for coach Joel Quenneville, who with the rest of the Blackhawks’ coaching staff were the only ones on the bench that knew about the suspension before puck drop, he refused to see the one playoff game as a bonus for his team, even though he said he respected the league’s decision.

“One playoff game is very big when you know his importance to our team and the minutes he absorbs,” he said. “We’ll take it, move on and learn from it as well.”

Sports Talk Live Podcast: Is Crawford ready to go?

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USA TODAY

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:

Niklas Hjalmarsson 'wasn't happy' about trade, but remembers time with Blackhawks fondly

Niklas Hjalmarsson 'wasn't happy' about trade, but remembers time with Blackhawks fondly

Apparently time doesn’t heal all wounds. 

Nearly a year and a half since being traded to the Coyotes, Niklas Hjalmarsson will return to the United Center ice on Thursday playing for the visiting team.  

“It’s going to be strange coming in as the away team and being in the other locker room,” said Hjalmarsson on Wednesday. “I bet it’s going to be a lot of emotions and mixed feelings.” 

This is also the first time Hjalmarsson has been back to the city of Chicago since he was traded, a city he called his “second home.” A home where he spent parts of 10 seasons, and never really planned on leaving.

“I wasn’t happy, to be honest with you,” said Hjalmarsson of the trade to Arizona. “I was shocked. It took me a couple days to actually realize I wasn’t going to play for the Hawks anymore.”

Including the playoffs, Hjalmarsson played 751 games in the Indian head sweater. Despite that and the team’s three Stanley Cup victories, the Blackhawks shipped him off to Arizona for Connor Murphy and Laurent Dauphin in June of 2017.

“You kind of let it go after a while,” he said. “Now I’m just hoping all the success for the guys over here too.”

Hjalmarsson was known for his toughness, repeatedly blocking shot after shot, giving up his body, while never missing a shift. He credits his long-time teammates — Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook — for a lot of his success and identity on the blue line.

“I couldn’t have had better role models coming into a team,” he said. “I’m very thankful to have played on the same team as those guys and created a lot of success together. We’re always going to be connected with the Cups that we’ve had.”

The third championship won by that defense-trio was on United Center ice against the Lightning in 2015, but that isn’t the memory that stands out most for Hjalmarsson.

“The first Cup is always going to be pretty special,” said the 31-year old. “Even just going to the conference final (in 2009), even when we lost against Detroit that year, the year before was great memories too. The first time for me going into the playoffs and playing deep.”

The tables have turned now for both Hjalmarsson and the Blackhawks. 

The Coyotes have yet to score an even-strength goal this season, while the Blackhawks have claimed eight of a possible 10 points thus far through five games and expect to have their starting goaltender back between the pipes. 

But you won’t hear any ill-will from Hjalmarsson, he’s still rooting for the Hawks.

“I always think that Chicago deserves to have a team in the playoffs,” he said. “It’s not that I wish them not to do well. It’s the total opposite. I want them to have continued success.”