Turns out we didn’t have to wait too long to find out what would happen to the Chicago Blackhawks roster when Duncan Keith returned. Hours after fellow defenseman Michal Rozsival came off long-term injured reserve, resulting in the demotion of Erik Gustafsson, Keith was activated and another defenseman, Viktor Svedberg, was also sent to Rockford to make room for Keith.
Keith hasn’t played since Oct. 17 after undergoing surgery to repair a torn meniscus in one of his knees. He officially missed 10 games but will return Saturday against the St. Louis Blues, according to coach Joel Quenneville. On the same note, Q said Rozsival will also suit up against the Blues. More on this in a moment.
For now, we say goodbye to Svedberg, who played in 15 of the Blackhawks’ first 16 games after being a surprise roster member out of training camp. Svedberg tallied a goal and an assist along with a minus-1 rating while skating alongside Brent Seabrook after Keith went down. Svedberg wasn’t terribly mobile, and it’s something that could hinder his future longevity in the NHL. But he’d certainly be a serviceable third-pairing defenseman as he is currently put together.
Now, on to the active roster. The Blackhawks are somehow managing to make these two moves and stay under the salary cap, which, by my observations, isn’t possible. I may totally be missing something, and feel free to say so in the comments section, but spotrac.com had the Blackhawks at $4,814,585 in cap space before either Keith or Svedberg was moved. With Svedberg’s $575,000 off the books, that number climbs to $5,389,585, short of Keith’s cap hit of $5,538,462. But no one seems to be bringing this up, so the Blackhawks must have some secret plan for how this is going to work.
I was operating under the assumption Brandon Mashinter would also go to Rockford once Keith was activated, but he appears to be in line to play Saturday against St. Louis. So I apparently have no idea how the salary cap works, or it’s just being ignored at this point in time. There’s also the third option that sportrac’s numbers are off, which is entirely possible, but the website tends to be very reliable with its salary cap information.
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In additional news, Coach Q went to his line blender with reckless abandon at today’s morning skate. These were the lines and pairings to come out of that:
Duncan Keith-Niklas Hjalmarsson
Trevor van Riemsdyk-Brent Seabrook
Michal Rozsival-Trevor Daley
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Starting with the forward groups, Dano gets another shot at the top line after playing there during training camp but quickly being demoted for being too much of a spectator. For the love of all things hockey, Marko, please don’t be a spectator this time so we can end this revolving door on the top left wing.
The second line stays intact for now, as it should since it’s the only one producing offensively. The third line is essentially a repurposed fourth line without Andrew Desjardins, who appears to be a healthy scratch for Saturday. And the fourth line just won’t play much against the Blues, because look at it. What exactly is that line supposed to do? Guess it’s good to try everything once.
On defense, the third pairing makes me want to find a corner to cry in. I have no idea how Daley, who’s about as defensively responsible as Chris Campoli, is supposed to babysit for Rozsival, who is not only slow but also coming off a broken ankle. So expect those defensive pairings to stay the same for about 10-25 seconds before Q throws things and mixes them up.
Overall, I know Q is trying to find a spark to make this team more effective on both ends of the ice. Maybe this lineup is what it takes. But on paper, it looks pretty ugly in spots. Thankfully, they don’t play the games on paper.