Refreshed Keith set to return to Blackhawks lineup

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Refreshed Keith set to return to Blackhawks lineup

Duncan Keith was keeping himself as busy or not busy as he could during his suspension: working out a little, walking his dogs a lot. And he got rest, a lot of rest.

And that rest for Keith, who has played a ton of minutes again this season, could prove very beneficial.

Keiths five-game suspension is in the books now, and he will return to the Blackhawks lineup on Thursday night when they play the Minnesota Wild. It wasnt fun sitting on the sidelines these last five games for Keith, who has had a massive workload these past two seasons. But he said he took advantage of the down time and feels good entering Thursday.

I feel good and stronger than I was before so I think hopefully it pays off, said Keith, who said he gained back a few pounds hes lost with all the minutes this season. When youve been playing and skating the whole season and suddenly you stop, it throws you off a bit. But Ive been trying to stay sharp so it shouldnt be that much of a problem.

The Blackhawks suffered a 6-1 drubbing to the Nashville Predators in Keiths first game out, but that was just a bad team game. The defense made do in his absence, with Brent Seabrook and Niklas Hjalmarsson pairing on that top group. The Blackhawks got through the stretch relatively well, going 2-1-2.

It just shows the depth we have, said Keith, who will obviously go back to his usual spot with Seabrook. I think we probably have the best depth at defensemen in the league, especially with the addition of (Johnny) Oduya. Obviously you want to be out there playing but they did a great job and played well.

Now with Keith back, the Blackhawks will basically be at full strength along the blue line.

Hes obviously a huge leader on this team. We miss him, Nick Leddy said. He makes everyone else better, so its exciting to have him back there.

Kevin Dineen to stay on Blackhawks' staff as Avalanche hire Jared Bednar

Kevin Dineen to stay on Blackhawks' staff as Avalanche hire Jared Bednar

The Blackhawks' coaching staff will be intact for the 2016-17 season.

Two weeks after Patrick Roy abruptly resigned as head coach, the Colorado Avalanche officially picked Jared Bednar to be his replacement over Blackhawks assistant Kevin Dineen, who was among the favorites for the coaching vacancy.

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Bednar has no National Hockey League coaching experience, but did guide the Columbus Blue Jackets' American Hockey League affiliate to a 15-2 postseason record last season en route to the franchise's first Calder Cup championship.

Retaining Dineen is good news for the Blackhawks, who start training camp next month, but it goes without saying that Dineen is certainly deserving of a second crack at a head coaching position in the near future.

Dineen, Mike Kitchen and head coach Joel Quenneville will enter their third season together after helping the Blackhawks capture a Stanley Cup in their first year as a group in 2015.

Jonathan Toews named Team Canada alternate captain for World Cup of Hockey

Jonathan Toews named Team Canada alternate captain for World Cup of Hockey

Jonathan Toews was named alternate captain of Team Canada on Thursday for the upcoming World Cup of Hockey.

Sidney Crosby was named Team Canada’s captain. Crosby, who claimed his second Stanley Cup in June, was also Team Canada’s captain en route to the gold medal at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games.

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Toews, who has been the Blackhawks’ captain since the 2008-09 season, was also alternate captain of Canada’s 2014 Olympic squad. Shea Weber of the Montreal Canadiens will serve as Team Canada’s other alternate captain.

Duncan Keith won't play for Team Canada in World Cup of Hockey

Duncan Keith won't play for Team Canada in World Cup of Hockey

Duncan Keith will not be part of the Blackhawks’ World Cup of Hockey contingent after all.

Keith will focus on improving his health rather than play for Team Canada in the tournament, which takes place next month in Toronto. The Blackhawks released a statement regarding Keith on Wednesday afternoon.

"As Duncan continues offseason rehabilitation on the right knee injury that he sustained last season, we understand his decision not to participate in next month’s World Cup of Hockey," team physician Dr. Michael Terry said in the statement. "We believe it is in his best interests to focus on getting stronger and not risk further injury."

Keith had surgery on that knee last October and was sidelined about one month.

St. Louis Blues defenseman Jay Bouwmeester will take Keith’s place.