ST. PAUL -- After missing five games because of suspension, Duncan Keith returns to the Chicago lineup Thursday as the Blackhawks play at Minnesota.
Keith, who was disciplined for elbowing Vancouver forward Daniel Sedin Mar. 21, will jump back into the Hawks top pairing with partner Brent Seabrook.
Chicago went 2-1-2 in the five games Keith missed, but his return comes at a good time. With a pair of road games against the Wild on Thursday and Detroit on Saturday, Chicago is currently sixth in the Western Conference playoff race. Two points behind Nashville and three behind Detroit, the Blackhawks could jump as high as fourth with a pair of wins and some help. The Red Wings host New Jersey and Nashville hosts Dallas on Thursday.
"It was tough," Keith told NHL.com following practice Tuesday. "Obviously you want to be out there playing and helping the guys. They did a great job and played well. We've been playing well for a long time now, I think. I just want to help out and keep it going."
Keith, who won the Norris Trophy two years ago, is second in the NHL in ice time this season, trailing only Brian Campbell of Florida. And while a suspension is never a positive thing, a break down the stretch for Keith could benefit both him and the Blackhawks. Chicago has already clinched a playoff berth and a rested Keith could make the Hawks a dangerous team over the next few weeks.
"I guess getting some rest at this time of year would probably be beneficial in that regard," Keith said. "I didn't feel like I needed rest. I've been able to play a lot of games every year, so I don't feel that's a reason or anything why I need rest. I feel good and I feel stronger than I was before, so hopefully it pays off."
On the injury front, forward Jonathan Toews is on the roadtrip for Chicago but will not play Thursday. He could play Saturday in Detroit after missing 21 games because of a concussion.
Center Dave Bolland also will not play Thursday. He is day-to-day with an upper-body injury, but is also on the trip and could play Saturday.
Andrew Brunette is questionable with a lower-body ailment, but practiced Wednesday.
As a whole, the Blackhawks should be a rested bunch: They haven't played since Sunday's 5-4 shootout loss to the Wild, which they will attempt to avenge this evening.
Here is Chicago's projected lineup:
Jimmy Hayes - Patrick Kane - Marian Hossa
Patrick Sharp - Marcus Kruger - Viktor Stalberg
Bryan Bickell - Brendan Morrison - Andrew Shaw
Brandon Bollig - Jamal Mayers - Michael Frolik
Duncan Keith - Brent Seabrook
Nick Leddy - Johnny Oduya
Niklas Hjalmarsson - Dylan Olsen