Chicago Sun-Times

Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith anxious to play after five-game ban

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ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith looked anxious and a bit edgy.

A layoff will do that.

Keith will be in the Hawks' lineup Thursday night against the Minnesota Wild. It will be the first time he plays since getting suspended five games for elbowing Vancouver Canucks forward Daniel Sedin in the head on March 21. Sedin is out with a concussion.

"It's been a while, a couple weeks," Keith said after the team's morning skate at the Xcel Energy Center on Thursday. "I'm looking forward to getting back to playing. It felt good to skate the last couple days with the guys and good to take the pre-game skate."

The Hawks certainly missed Keith during his five-game suspension. They went 2-1-2 without him, breaking from the solid defensive play that defined them in March and allowing four or more goals in three of those games.

Keith said he was able to pick up on a few things from watching, but is primarily looking forward to recapturing his strong play prior to the suspension.

"I guess we're going to find out," Keith said, when asked how long it will take him to get up to speed. "I don't know. I've played a lot of hockey already, so just take the first period [with] short shifts, try to keep shifts short, keep it simple and go from there."

Keith, who has 40 points this season, will be paired with Brent Seabrook, while rookie Dylan Olsen will be healthy scratch after playing in 26 games in a row. Here are the Hawks' defensive pairings for Thursday:

Duncan Keith -- Brent Seabrook

Nick Leddy -- Johnny Oduya

Niklas Hjalmarsson -- Sean O'Donnell

"[Keith] means a lot to our team as far as what he brings and the quantity and quality of the ice that he gets or he gives us," coach Joel Quenneville said. "He plays in all situations and important minutes. He brings a lot to our back end, our puck-possession game and [has] quickness in all zones."

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Adam L. Jahns is a native Chicagoan. Jahns has been with the Sun-Times since 2005, covering the Hawks since 2009. He's also helped cover the Bears, Cubs, Sox and high schools. Follow him on Twitter:@adamjahns

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This page contains a single entry by Adam L. Jahns published on April 5, 2012 12:58 PM.

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