To say this is a big loss for the Blackhawks is an understatement, but it must be noted that this team knows how to weather these sorts of storms. Over the course of the past three seasons, Chicago has had to make do without Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp for extended periods of time and they managed to do the job.
The trouble this time is that Keith does so much for this franchise, from logging serious minutes to forcing the issue at both ends of the ice.
“With [Kane’s injury] you [missed] a big chunk of your offence,” Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. “With [Keith], it’s almost like you miss both parts of your game. So I don’t think you want to overemphasize one area. I think we’re going to have to be strong in our total team game.”
Keith is certainly among the most active of active players, with 19,544:17 logged in 11 regular seasons since 2005-2006. Only Jay Bouwmeester has played more hockey in that timeframe.
And now the Blackhawks will have to balance things out a little, with more defensive coverage expected from forwards.
“The system is still the same,” said forward Marian Hossa. “Nothing changed there, but definitely younger guys are going to have more responsibilities [on defence], and forwards, we need to help those guys better, coming back and help them out in our zone.”
The Blackhawks will likely look to Trevor Daley and David Rundblad to pick up the pace, with the latter having been scratched for the past five games. The 25-year-old from Sweden will certainly have a chance to shine in Keith’s absence.
“It’s a big opportunity for me to be playing,” said Rundblad. “It’s been tough not playing these last games, so I’m excited for this opportunity. It’s never fun to see a teammate get hurt, but I’ve just got to do with the situation and just play my best.”
Coach Quenneville hasn’t been clear about calling someone up from the AHL, however, so he may be willing to make do with what he has for the time being. He has shuffled his pairings slightly and will continue to tinker with his options, hoping against hope that Keith’s absence doesn’t prove ultimately costly.