St. Louis -- The Blues will have another dangerous Chicago player to keep an eye on Friday night as defenseman Duncan Keith returns to the Blackhawks’ lineup after missing the last six games due to a suspension.
Keith was suspended two weeks ago when he swung his stick in retaliation to a hit and whacked Wild forward Charlie Coyle in the face. His six-game absence included Game 1 of the playoffs.
Keith, 32, is one of the league’s top defenseman, so it was key for the Blues to capitalize on Wednesday with a victory while he sat. Now, up 1-0 in the series, the Blues will have to adjust their game a bit.
“Him coming back is going to be a huge boost for them,” said Blues forward Troy Brouwer. “It’s another guy that we have to worry about, a guy who I think logs the most minutes in the NHL or close to it. When you have the opportunity when a guy like that is out of the lineup, we wanted to take advantage of it and we were able to.”
Keith was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy during Chicago’s Championship run last postseason. The trophy is awarded to the playoffs’ most valuable player, speaking to the importance of the defenseman. But Blues coach Ken Hitchcock isn’t too concerned.
“He is just a player on the other team,” said Hitchcock. “If I am going to start oohing and ahhing about the opposition, that’s a big mistake.”
Hitchcock has seen a lot of Keith over the years with Team Canada, as well as within the Central Division. He knows what the defenseman brings to the game.
“I know what type of player he is,” said Hitchcock. “He’s another player on the team so you write down a number. If you start spending too much time talking about an opposition’s player, it freezes up your team. He’s another good player that they have got. We have good players, too. He another number that goes up.”
Keith, who had nine goals, 43 points in the regular season, is expected to be paired with Niklas Hjalmarsson.
“Their defensive corps is going to look a little different with him in the lineup but it’s just another player we have to play against night in and night out and regardless of how much of a quality player he is, we still have to do what we do,” said Brouwer.