Blackhawks’ Keith yearns to return vs. Avalanche

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Blackhawks’ Keith yearns to return vs. Avalanche

Two-time Norris Trophy winning defenseman Duncan Keith could be back in the lineup Wednesday night when the Chicago Blackhawks host the Colorado Avalanche.

The 36-year-old Keith, who has one goal and five assists this season while averaging almost 24 minutes (23:51) in time on ice, has been out since sustaining a groin injury versus Colorado on Nov. 29.

Keith returned to full practice on Monday after missing nine games and told reporters he was hopeful to play against the Avalanche, but that he and the medical staff were taking it day-to-day.

“It’s kind of weird,” the 2015 Conn Smythe Award winner said of the injury. “I’ve never had groin problems in my career but sometimes mechanically when you’ve had a few injuries, if you don’t keep up with balancing things out in your body, you can develop those compensations, and that’s what happened. I’ve been working hard to straighten things out and hopefully it stays better now.”

The Blackhawks come in off a 5-3 victory over the Minnesota Wild on Sunday, snapping a four-game losing streak. Brandon Saad redirected Connor Murphy’s shot from the point for what proved to be the winning goal with 6:17 remaining, and Patrick Kane scored into an empty net to complete the sixth regular-season hat trick of his career.

It was a nice bounce-back win for Chicago, which let a 3-0 lead in the third period get away in a 4-3 loss at the St. Louis Blues less than 24 hours earlier.

“I think it was nice that we played again [Sunday], to be honest with you,” Kane said. “Don’t want everyone sitting on that one for a few days. … Obviously, a good response from everyone.”

The Blackhawks, who have won four of the last 14 games, improved to 6-1-0 when playing the second half of a back-to-back.

“That’s the good thing about hockey is you get another chance the next night,” Saad said. “To come home, regroup, refocus and get a big win, that’s what we needed.”

Colorado, which trails first-place St. Louis by three points in the Central Division, also comes in off a loss to the Blues, blowing a 2-1 second-period lead in a 5-2 loss Monday. It marked the first time since a 3-2 loss at the Wild on Nov. 21 that the Avalanche, who lead the NHL with a 3.61 goals per game average, were held to fewer than three goals in a game.

“It felt like a playoff game to me at least,” right wing Joonas Donskoi said. “They won (the Stanley Cup) last year so they play hard, they play physical, so that is how it is going to be when we are getting closer to the playoffs. It was a good lesson and we can get a lot out of this game and we can get a lot better.”

“Hopefully, this is a wake-up call for us,” defenseman Ian Cole told the Denver Post. “I think you see a (Blues) team that’s very dedicated, very structured and very committed to their structure. (St. Louis) has been successful obviously last year and into this season for a reason. I think we can learn some lessons from that, for sure.”

Colorado, which will again be without defensemen Erik Johnson and Cale Makar, both of whom are out with upper-body injuries, is 8-1-1 in its last 10 games and is 11-6-1 on the road.

–Field Level Media

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