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Blackhawks' Keith skates for first time since surgery

by Brian Hedger / NHL.com

CHICAGO -- Duncan Keith, the Chicago Blackhawks' top defenseman and reigning Conn Smythe Trophy winner, skated during a full team workout for the first time since having surgery Oct. 20 to repair a torn right meniscus.

Keith skated the previous couple days with other Blackhawks making their way back from injuries.

"I'm feeling good," said Keith, who had two assists in six games before the surgery. "Obviously I don't think the leg is as strong as it needs to be, but I definitely feel pretty good for not skating [in a few weeks]. Trainers have helped a lot in preparing to get on the ice. It's a quick turnaround. I try to do a lot of different things to be ready to go, so hopefully it can happen sooner."

Keith isn't eligible to come off long-term injured reserve until Nov. 14, when the Blackhawks play the St. Louis Blues. Keith didn't commit to being ready by that point, but coach Joel Quenneville is hopeful.

"We've got our fingers crossed that it could be that soon, but we'll see when he gets in some contact with us here this week [in practice]," Quenneville said. "He's skated the past couple days. He says he feels really good, and I thought he moved alright out there today, as well, so that's very encouraging."

If Keith returns Nov. 14 at St. Louis, that would be less than four weeks after surgery. Blackhawks head team physician, Dr. Michael Terry, initially estimated Keith could 4-6 weeks.

"I was excited to get out there today with the guys," Keith said. "One step at a time. It's nice to be out there in the morning skate and pass the puck around with the team and try to get going. It's just getting the conditioning back and things like that. You don't want to put a timetable on it yet, but it feels a lot better."

The injury occurred during the Stanley Cup Final. Keith doesn't remember which game, but he thinks it happened in either Game 3 or Game 4 at United Center. He said a Tampa Bay Lightning player fell on the back of his leg, which initially caused his calf to be sore.

He ignored the pain because it was the biggest stage in the postseason, and finished the series strong. Keith, who led all players in ice time during the playoffs (715:37), scored the deciding goal in Chicago's 2-0 victory in Game 6 to clinch their third championship in six seasons.

After going through the offseason relatively pain free, the pain came back during the hard skating of the preseason. His mobility was affected as well.

Chicago is 4-3-1 without Keith in the lineup, but started the stretch 3-0-0. The Blackhawks are 1-3-1 in the past five games and have allowed 20 goals. The past three games were played without Keith and right wing Marian Hossa, another two-way force.

"Obviously, we're spoiled watching [Keith] play, on some nights, as many as 30 minutes in a game," Quenneville said. "So, he has a big influence on our game and the game itself. Offensively, one area where we really miss [Keith] is him with the puck coming out of our end, and in the offensive zone as well. He defends as good as anybody in the game, so there's definitely a void."

Keith doesn't like sitting out, but said he won't play again until he feels 100 percent. Since the surgery was done so early in the season, missing a month isn't as bad as it would be in March or April. The time spent off the ice might actually become a long-term benefit for Keith, who's logged some of the highest minutes in the NHL the past three seasons.

"I think that's one positive way to look at it," Keith said. "But at the same time, I didn't feel there was any mental fatigue. I think we've been through this situation before, where we've had long seasons and a quick turnaround. It's just something now, where I can try to use this time to the best of my ability and to rejuvenate, so when I come back I can be ready to help the team."

Hossa (lower body) and center Artem Anisimov (lower body) also took part in the morning skate, along with defenseman Michal Rozsival (left ankle). Hossa and Anisimov are expected to play against the Edmonton Oilers on Sunday at United Center (8 p.m. ET; NHLN, SN).

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