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Keith's return will fill "big void" on blue line

by Eric Lear / Chicago Blackhawks

When the Blackhawks take the ice Saturday in St. Louis, they’ll get a big boost on the back end with the return of two veteran defensemen.

Duncan Keith and Michal Rozsival were both activated off long-term injured reserve on Friday and will suit up against the Blues. Keith missed 10 games with a torn MCL and is returning slightly ahead of the 4-6 week prognosis.

“He should enhance all situational plays: power play, penalty killing, 5-on-5, important minutes, first and last shifts of periods and games," Joel Quenneville said after Friday’s practice. "A lot of times he’s a key factor in all those critical shifts. It’s a big void. I thought defensively we weren’t bad in that stretch, but certainly his presence is going to make a big difference.”

Keith has averaged more than 25 minutes per game in his 10-year career, and it remains unclear if the two-time Norris Trophy winner will be able to play those minutes right away.

“We’ll keep an eye on him, for sure,” Quenneville said. “The way he’s feeling. The way things are going. We’ll have to evaluate in the course of the game. I don’t think we want to overtax him in game one, but he’ll dictate (that) and the score.”

Rozsival hasn’t played since the second round of the playoffs last year, when he suffered a gruesome ankle injury against the Minnesota Wild. The Blackhawks are hoping his return will help provide the experience and play recognition that Quenneville likes on the blue line.

“It’s huge,” Brent Seabrook said. “Rozy's been a big part of this team and a big part of the D corps, helping solidify that.”

Roszival was paired with Trevor Daley during Friday’s practice at Johnny’s IceHouse West, while Keith was with Niklas Hjalmarsson. The Blackhawks made two corresponding roster moves by assigning Erik Gustafsson and Viktor Svedberg to Rockford.

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