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Keith 'not going to change' after suspension

Blackhawks defenseman returns for Game 2 against Blues

by Brian Hedger / Correspondent

ST. LOUIS -- A day after saying Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith was, "just another player on the other team," St. Louis Blues coach Ken Hitchcock had an addendum.

Keith, who was suspended six games for a high-sticking penalty on March 29, will make his 2016 Stanley Cup Playoff debut in Game 2 of the Western Conference First Round against the Blues at Scottrade Center on Friday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVA Sports 2, CSN-CH, FS-MW).

The Blues won Game 1 of the best-of-7 series 1-0 in overtime Wednesday. Hitchcock, who was asked after practice Thursday about his comment about Keith, said a certain amount of gamesmanship was at the root of it.

"He's not another player," Hitchcock said. "If I'm going to start oohing and aahing about the opposition, that's a big mistake. That's a dumb thing to do. I got him two [Olympic gold] medals, so we're good friends. I know what type of player he is, but he's another player on their team, so you write down a number. You start oohing and aahing and start spending all this time talking about the opposition, it freezes up your team."

The Blackhawks hope Keith's return will put a freeze on the Blues. Chicago's defense was solid in Game 1, but Brent Seabrook, Niklas Hjalmarsson and Trevor van Riemsdyk each played far above their normal ice time.

Seabrook's 30:35 led all skaters, and Hjalmarsson played about 80 percent of the 7:49 the Blackhawks spent on the penalty kill. Getting Keith back will help remove some of those responsibilities and should bring more balance to Chicago's defense pairs.

Asked if Keith's presence is missed in virtually every facet of the game when he's out, Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville smiled and agreed.

"Yeah, we can start there," he said. "We have a little bit of everything in every area [with Keith]. You can talk about minutes played, you can talk about matchups, you can talk about [power play], [penalty kill] ... last-minute important faceoffs. You get offense from him, you get defense from him, you get steadiness [and] you get energy. He brings a lot of intangibles that make us go."

Keith said he doesn't plan to change his game but will work on controlling his actions when things heat up.

"I compete hard," last year's Conn Smythe Trophy winner said. "That's what I try to do and that's what I'm going to do [in Game 2]. I'm not going to change [my game]. It's not the first big game I've played in. It's a game and we want to get the win, so do what we can to find a way to get that win."

Sitting out six games gave Keith a chance to rest, but that's not how he looked at it. Instead, Keith said it was tough watching the final five games of the regular season and the Game 1 loss.

"You want to be out there helping the guys to try and win a hockey game, so that in itself is frustrating, especially with it obviously being a big game like it was," Keith said. "But I'm excited to get back and play again, and try and do everything I can to help [us] get a win."

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