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Chicago Blackhawks: Who Will Duncan Keith Replace?

By Matt Barbato
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The Chicago Blackhawks’ patchy defensive corps will get a revival soon, potentially this weekend, when Duncan Keith returns from knee surgery he had earlier in the season. The question is, who will Keith replace on the current Blackhawks’ roster?

There are a couple of candidates who could be waived to make room for Keith on the blue line. A good candidate to be removed from the roster could be David Rundblad.

Rundblad was given the first crack alongside Trevor van Riemsdyk on the bottom defensive pairing, but floundered with the opportunity. He has not played since Oct. 29 and has yet to register a point with a minus-2 rating in five games.

The advanced metrics actually support Rundblad, however. According to War-on-Ice.com, Rundblad has a 52.63 Corsi-for percentage in five games, which is actually better than Niklas Hjalmarsson‘s, Brent Seabrook‘s and Keith’s percentages. That number is surprising, but also comes with a small sample size and not much exposure to opponents’ top lines.

Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville seems to be moving in a different direction, however. Quenneville has gone with Erik Gustafsson, van Riemsdyk and Viktor Svedberg recently. Gustafsson, a former fourth-round pick by the Edmonton Oilers, has made an extremely positive impact on the defense in his debut with Chicago. Gustafsson has played in Chicago’s last five games and already has two points and a plus-4 rating.

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Believe it or not, Gustafsson has the best Corsi-for percentage on the roster with a 62.04 percentage. Again, Gustafsson’s sample size is marginal, but the numbers are certainly positive and could indicate that the Blackhawks have found a diamond in the rough in free agency.

The Blackhawks will also have another roster crunch when Michal Rozsival returns from injury. Rozsival probably won’t be an incredibly impactful defenseman, but the Blackhawks signed him back nonetheless and will probably play him right away. That means if Rundblad makes the first cut, he could be moved quickly afterward.

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Another candidate the Blackhawks could part ways with is Svedberg. Svedberg has gotten more playing time than Rundblad, but his numbers aren’t particularly strong. Svedberg has one goal, one assist and a neutral rating. His advanced metrics aren’t great either, as he has a 48.94 Corsi-for percentage, which is the worst percentage among Chicago’s defenseman.

The Blackhawks will have some decisions to make when Keith and Rozsival eventually return. The surprising impact Gustafsson has had thus far makes these decisions even more difficult. With Keith’s impending return, it looks like Rundblad could be the odd man out.

Next: Blackhawks Don't Need To Lead/Win Central Division

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