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Duncan Keith expects to be ready opening night

Chicago defenseman, recovering from knee injury, will play first preseason game Tuesday

by Brian Hedger / Correspondent

CHICAGO -- Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith said Tuesday he expects to be in the lineup for the regular-season opener against the St. Louis Blues at United Center on Oct. 12.

Keith will play his first preseason game against the Detroit Red Wings at United Center.

He missed the World Cup of Hockey 2016 and Chicago's first four preseason games while rehabilitating his right knee.

"I haven't played a game in a long time, like a lot of guys [have], so I'm just going to keep it simple and I'll just get that feeling back again," Keith said. "It's just one of those things now where it's going to be just focusing on maintaining my health and doing everything I can to make sure I'm feeling as good as I can to play."

Keith, 33, had surgery Oct. 20 to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee. He missed four weeks but played the rest of the regular season. He had nine goals and 43 points in 67 regular-season games, and three goals and two assists in six games against the Blues in a Western Conference First Round series during the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Video: STL@CHI, Gm4: Keith gives Blackhawks their first lead

He was named to Team Canada for the World Cup, but opted to miss the tournament Aug. 24 to continue to work on his knee, which he said had been bothering while skating during the summer. He stopped skating to let it rest, returned to the ice at the start of training camp and steadily has worked his way back.

Keith had been held out of scrimmages and games until now.

"I think we're progressing to where we're moving on," coach Joel Quenneville said after the morning skate. "He's going to be fresh and it shouldn't be a problem."

The Blackhawks got three key players back from the World Cup, with captain Jonathan Toews, goalie Corey Crawford and right wing Marian Hossa taking part in training camp.

Toews got on the ice but Hossa stayed off. Neither is expected to play until the start of the regular season. Crawford, who played one tournament game and one pretournament game for Team Canada during the World Cup, will start against the Red Wings and split the goaltending with backup Scott Darling.

"It's a little bit different in the tournament or in those [pretournament] games than it is here," Crawford said. "You just get in as much work as you can [in World Cup practices]. It was pretty tough. Every second shot was going off the bar or off the post, but it was fun to face those guys and just be around them."

Video: DET@CHI: Keith hammers a PPG from the point

Though the Blackhawks are closer to having their full roster in place, they'll be without defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson, who was suspended by the NHL Department of Player Safety for the final two preseason games and the first game of the regular season for an illegal hit on Blues forward Ty Rattie.

That could mean an extended stay in North America for defenseman Gustav Forsling, 20, who was expected to spend another season in Sweden. Forsling was selected by the Blackhawks in the fifth round (No. 126) of the 2014 NHL Draft.

Forsling, a puck-mover with a strong shot, has impressed the coaching staff to the point Quenneville is now considering keeping eight defensemen to start the season.

"Every day his name comes up and we're all very excited about his future … and his future will be determined pretty shortly," Quenneville said. "It's not out of the realm of possibilities [that he stays]."

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