Keith rejoins the fold as Blackhawks aim to close it out

Keith rejoins the fold as Blackhawks aim to close it out

June 8, 2013, 12:00 pm
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Hawks-Kings Game 5

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Duncan Keith has put his one-game suspension behind him.

The Chicago Blackhawks defenseman was as happy as any of his teammates – perhaps even happier – when they beat the Los Angeles Kings in Game 4 on Thursday night. Now back in the lineup, Keith wants to help the Blackhawks close the book on the Kings tonight at the United Center.

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Keith returns from his suspension for high-sticking Jeff Carter, and the Blackhawks will play like they’re the ones fighting to stay in the series as they host the Kings in Game 5 of the Western Conference Final tonight. For Keith, the suspension is over, as is the talk about it.

“It doesn’t matter what my opinion is,” he said. “Like I said (after Game 3), I didn’t mean to get him where I got him. I know it doesn’t look good. But I’m glad he’s back playing for them. It doesn’t matter what my opinion on the suspension was.”

The Blackhawks played stifling defense that night, and will need to do so again if they want to eliminate the Kings and avoid traveling back to Los Angeles for a Game 6. Keith’s return is an obvious boost for the Blackhawks.

“I’m sure the D will like that,” said Patrick Kane. “I thought (Sheldon) Brookbank did a good job moving the puck; he just got a couple of tough breaks. I’m sure (Keith) will eat up a lot of ice time and give some guys the rest back there. It’s a huge advantage having him in the lineup.”

[MORE -- Life without Keith: Brookbank steps up]

The Blackhawks said Keith was one of the happiest guys in the room after that Game 4 victory. He admits it was a bit of a relief that his suspension didn’t cost the Blackhawks in that game.

“At the same time, I know we have a lot of great players,” he said. “Look at our D core: guys stepped up, played more minutes. But it definitely feels good that we won and move on to a big game tonight.”

Meanwhile, Kane was with Jonathan Toews and Bryan Bickell on line rushes this morning. The three were thrown together in Game 4 and got some good results. Bickell hopes momentum carries over with them tonight.

“I don’t know why (coach Joel Quenneville) did that but it sparked the team,” he said. “Kane came on our line to spark a goal. Hopefully that gets him going and gets us going as a line again. We just have to carry the momentum from last game to this game.”

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But the Blackhawks are being sure to avoid overconfidence. They were the Kings in the second round, down 3-1 and fighting off elimination. And they’re looking to bring the desperation they had in that series into this game.

“This is going to be the hardest game of the series,” Bickell said. “Going into this game, the first 10 minutes will probably dictate how it projects. You don’t want to make that long flight. So you make it like a Game 7, like there’s nothing to lose.”