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5 Questions: Chicago Blackhawks

Duncan Keith's health, scoring from young forwards big keys

by Brian Hedger / Correspondent

An NHL season is filled with twists and turns for each of the League's 30 teams. Here are five of the major questions that could define the 2016-17 season for the Chicago Blackhawks:

Will they get enough depth scoring?

Chicago could have three or more rookie forwards in the lineup on a regular basis: Vincent Hinostroza, who adds speed and versatility; Nick Schmaltz, who plays a style similar to former Blackhawks forward Teuvo Teravainen, who was traded to the Carolina Hurricanes on June 15; and Tyler Motte, who has tenacity and offensive upside similar to Andrew Shaw, who was traded to the Montreal Canadiens on June 24. Whether Hinostroza, Schmaltz and Motte can score enough goals, along with depth forwards Marcus Kruger, Andrew Desjardins and Richard Panik, remains to be seen.

Video: DET@CHI: Hinostroza deflects home Desjardins' shot

How will Duncan Keith's right knee hold up?

Keith, 33, had surgery on his right knee last October and it kept him out for a month. He didn't miss a game the rest of the regular season or in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but soreness returned during this offseason and kept him out of the World Cup of Hockey 2016 and the Blackhawks' first four preseason games.

"I'm just going day by day," Keith said. "Whatever it is, you always have bumps and bruises and things like that. Sometimes things are bigger [issues] than other ones. Just play hockey."

He played his first game Tuesday, said he felt good and that he expects to be in the lineup opening night against the St. Louis Blues on Oct. 12.

"I think it was a good test getting back in a game situation," Keith said after he had two assists in 19:41 of ice time.

Keith has led the Blackhawks in average ice time per game in 11 straight seasons, but coach Joel Quenneville could look to reduce his workload. 


Will the longer offseason rejuvenate the veterans?

Had they gotten past the Blues in the Western Conference First Round last season, the Blackhawks feel like they could have made another long run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. It might turn out to be a good thing that didn't happen. Prior to that defeat, Chicago won the Stanley Cup in 2013, lost to the Los Angeles Kings in the 2014 Western Conference Final, and won the Cup in 2015. Throw in the 2014 Sochi Olympics, and that's a lot of hockey separated by short offseasons.

"After such a long summer, I felt like maybe I was retired," defenseman Brent Seabrook said. "It was definitely a different summer and a weird summer. It was something that I took advantage of, and I think the guys who played here last year all took advantage of that, took care of themselves and got re-energized for this year."


Can Patrick Kane match last season's output?

Kane, 27, had NHL career highs in goals (46), assists (60) and points (106) last season. He won the Art Ross Trophy as the leading scorer in the NHL, the Hart Trophy as MVP, and the Ted Lindsay Award as most outstanding player voted by the NHL Players' Association. Whether Kane can approach those numbers again may depend on how the top two forward lines look. If Kane remains on a line with left wing Artemi Panarin, he could have another huge statistical season. If Panarin plays with Jonathan Toews on the top line, expect some sort of dip for Kane.

"I'm a big believer in wiping the slate clean," Kane said. "There's definitely some motivation there, where you want to prove yourself again. It's a little bit in the back of your mind, but [I'll] take it on a day-by-day basis, kind of like I did last year."

Video: Recapping Patrick Kane's Amazing 2015-16 Season

Wherefore art thou, Marian Hossa?  

Much of Chicago's offensive concerns could be relieved if Hossa rediscovers his scoring touch. The 37-year old right wing has 499 NHL goals, but scored 13 in 64 games last season. He still creates a lot of scoring chances, but his inability to convert on them put a strain on the top line. He had a resurgence during the playoffs in a third-line role, with three goals and two assists in seven games, but could start this season on the top line after performing well for Team Europe in the World Cup of Hockey 2016.

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