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Chicago Blackhawks’ Duncan Keith To Miss 4-6 Weeks

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The Chicago Blackhawks will be without their best defenseman for a considerable period of time. According to Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun-Times, 2015 Conn Smythe winner Duncan Keith will miss four-to-six weeks after undergoing surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee. It is uncertain how or when Keith was injured.

The reason for Keith’s injury is unknown, but the incredible amount of tread he has put on his tires probably had something to do with it. According to Lazerus, Keith has never missed more than eight games in a single season throughout his career, but the ice time has accumulated. The 32-year-old defenseman has averaged at least 24 minutes of ice time in every season since 2008. Keith put Chicago’s defensive corps on his back during its latest Stanley Cup run when he averaged more than 31 minutes of ice time during the postseason.

It’s hard to describe just how big of a loss this is for the Blackhawks. Keith recorded two assists through Chicago’s first six games of the season, but his absence will be felt in many more places besides the stat sheet. Keith has been one of Chicago’s best defensemen, typically facilitates the offense through stretch passes and zone entries and has been defensively responsible enough to babysit some of Chicago’s younger defensive prospects.

This is the worst-case scenario for Chicago. The Blackhawks already have a shoddy defensive group that was trying to replace Johnny Oduya and fortify the bottom pairing. The Blackhawks have surrendered only 14 goals through six games, but that was mainly because of great goaltending. Opponents have averaged 28 shots per game against the Blackhawks.

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Viktor Svedberg and David Rundblad have served as the depth defenseman on the roster. Chicago might have to utilize Trevor van Riemsdyk, Rundblad and Svedberg all at once, which will be a risky proposition. Each player is 25-years-old or younger, and the trio has played in a combined 134 professional games.

A short-term replacement for Keith could be Ville Pokka, who has spent the season with the Rockford IceHogs. Michal Rozsival is also recovering from a fractured ankle he suffered during the postseason and could be skating soon, and Kyle Cumiskey is in Rockford and reportedly ready to go.

Keith will likely be placed on long-term injured reserve, which will free up $5.54 million in cap space, according to the Daily Herald’s Brian Hedger. This means the Blackhawks could acquire a veteran defenseman if they wanted. The Blackhawks saw a similar situation last season when Patrick Kane went down for an extended period of time with a broken collarbone. The Blackhawks were able to acquire Antoine Vermette and Kimmo Timonen using the cap space Kane’s absence freed up.

The onus will be on Niklas Hjalmarsson and Brent Seabrook to carry the load for the next month and a half. They won’t be able to replace Keith, but they will have to overcome his absence. Trevor Daley also needs to step up after struggling through the early slate of the season.

The Blackhawks’ quest to repeat became even more of an uphill climb today. The Blackhawks will need to tread water without last year’s Cup Final MVP if they have any hope of making the postseason in an ultra-competitive Western Conference.

Next: Blackhawks Week Ahead: Cup Final Rematch

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