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Blackhawks' Keith, Rozsival to play against Blues

by Brian Hedger

CHICAGO -- Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith will return from injury and be in the lineup Saturday against the St. Louis Blues at Scottrade Center (8 p.m. ET; WGN, FS-MW), coach Joel Quenneville said after practice Friday.

Keith, 32, had surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee Oct. 20 and was projected to miss 4-6 weeks. The Blackhawks are 5-4-1 since the reigning Conn Smythe Trophy winner as MVP of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs left the lineup.

"[Keith] should enhance all situational plays," Quenneville said. "It's a big void. I thought defensively [we weren't] bad in that stretch [without him], but certainly his presence can make a big difference."

The Blackhawks also activated defenseman Michal Rozsival from long-term injured reserve. The 37-year old veteran will make his season debut against the Blues, playing for the first time since fracturing his left ankle last season against the Minnesota Wild in Game 4 of the Western Conference Second Round.

Keith worked on the top pairing with Niklas Hjalmarsson during practice, playing his usual spot on the left point. Rozsival played right point on the third pairing with Trevor Daley. Trevor van Riemsdyk and Brent Seabrook formed the second pairing, with David Rundblad the seventh defenseman.

After having his ankle surgically repaired, Rozsival was invited to Blackhawks training camp on a professional tryout. He agreed to a one-year contract Sept. 19 worth $600,000, according to

"[Rozsival's] pretty experienced in a lot of ways and gives us an element on the back end," Quenneville said. "He’s got good patience, play recognition with the puck, defensively he's got a nice gap and we could use some experience as well."

The Blackhawks reassigned rookie defensemen Erik Gustafsson and Viktor Svedberg to Rockford of the American Hockey League.

Gustafsson and Svedberg played significant roles while subbing for Keith and Rozsival. Svedberg shifted with Seabrook on the top pairing, and Gustafsson played with Daley on the third unit.

Svedberg, who's 6-foot-8, had a goal and an assist in 15 games. Gustafsson, who signed with Chicago as a free agent out of the Swedish League on April 30, had three assists and a plus-5 rating in six games.

"I thought they were big," Seabrook said. "I thought they were put in some different situations, and they were forced to learn on the [fly], so I thought we did a good job. We would've liked to get a few more wins, but [we didn't]."

Chicago's puck-possession rates actually increased without Keith. The Blackhawks' shot attempts percentage (SAT%) during 5-on-5 play went from 50.9 percent in the first six games with him to 53.6 percent in 10 games without him. His absence started to become more apparent in the past couple weeks.

After losing 3-2 to the New Jersey Devils at United Center on Thursday, the Blackhawks are 2-4-1 in their past seven games and continue to have trouble generating offense from any place other than the second line of left wing Artemi Panarin, center Artem Anisimov and right wing Patrick Kane.

Keith's presence could spark more offense.

"He's huge for us," Seabrook said. "What he's able to do defensively, with keeping other teams' top players off the scoresheet as much as he can, I think he's [just as] good for the offensive side of the puck. He's good at moving the puck up to our forwards, getting it to them with a good, clean pass and getting them going with stride and speed. To have another guy back there who can do something like that is good."

Quenneville hasn't determined whether Keith will play both games of Chicago's back-to-back against the Blues and Calgary Flames this weekend or how many minutes he'll log against St. Louis.

"We'll keep an eye on him, for sure, the way the game's playing, the way he's feeling [and] the way things are going," Quenneville said. "[There's] a lot to evaluate over the course of a game, but it's tough to say we've got a set number [of minutes] going into it. I don't think we want to overtax him in Game 1, but he'll dictate [that] and the score [will too]."

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