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.

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' shutout win over Bruins

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' shutout win over Bruins

Here are five takeaways from the Blackhawks' 1-0 victory over the Boston Bruins on Friday night:

1. A sluggish start.

The Blackhawks have gotten off to some solid starts lately, scoring the game's first goal in the opening frame in five of their last six contests heading into Friday. But they were lucky to get out of the first in a 0-0 tie this time.

They had 15 shot attempts (six on goal) through the first 20 minutes while the Bruins had 30 attempts (17 on goal). Fortunately for the Blackhawks, Scott Darling stopped all of them that came his way.

Boston's third line of Ryan Spooner, Riley Nash and David Backes dominated possession, leading all skaters with a plus-12 Corsi in the period.  

2. Scott Darling steals two points.

Joel Quenneville decided to go with Darling in an effort to give a slumping Corey Crawford a chance to reset, and the Lemont native an opportunity to play in front of his father away from home, where he's used to watching him shine. It's safe to say he made his papa proud by putting on a great show.

Darling turned aside all 30 shots he faced, including 17 in the first period, for his second shutout of the season and fourth of his career. He has now allowed two or fewer goals in eight of his last 12 starts. 

Asked after the game whether he will earn a second straight start Sunday when the Blackhawks host the Vancouver Canucks, Quenneville responded, "We'll see."

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

3. Special teams not a factor.

In a game that featured only one goal, you'd think the way to crack the scoresheet would be on the man advantage. That didn't happen.

The Blackhawks went 0-for-3 on the power play, while the Bruins failed to cash in on their only two opportunities. Boston entered the contest by going 7-for-17 on the power play in their previous five games, good for a 41.2 success rate.

It was a nice bounce-back game for the Blackhawks' penalty kill unit, which allowed a goal on the man advantage in their previous two games.

4. Third line steps up at crucial moment.

The Blackhawks' third line of Vinnie Hinostroza, Marian Hossa and Tanner Kero had the worst possession numbers among all skaters, each registering a 24 percent Corsi or below. But when their team needed them the most, they stepped up.

With 1:26 left in regulation, Hossa ended his 10-game goal drought by burying home a terrific feed from Kero to snap a 0-0 tie and give the Blackhawks their second consecutive win. It's Hossa's 17th goal of the campaign, which ties Artemi Panarin for second on the team, and his fifth game-winning goal of the year. His 83 career game-winning goals now ranks 24th in NHL history, surpassing Mike Bossy, and remains fifth among active players.

Hossa's goal also moved him within a tie of Pierre Turgeon for 37th on the all-time goals list with 516.

Kero has six points in his last six games, while Hinostroza has two goals and one assist in his past two.

5. Despite recent struggles, Bruins in good hands with Claude Julien.

It seems like this is a discussion every year, but firing Julien would be a huge mistake for a Bruins team that fell to 3-5-2 in their last 10 games. They're still the No. 1 possession team in the NHL, controlling 55.42 percent of the even-strength shot attempts, and give up the fifth-fewest high danger scoring chances with 326, according the naturalstattrick.com. They average the second-most shots on goal per game at 33.9, and allow the second-fewest at 26.5.

To back it up, their PDO is 97.5 percent, the sum of a team's even-strength save percentage and shooting percentage that usually works it way toward 100, which indicates they're due for a fairly large correction. They're not getting bounces right now, but they're playing the right way and a change behind the bench would be a step in the wrong direction, considering Julien is easily a top-five coach in the NHL.

Marian Hossa scores game winner as Blackhawks beat Bruins

Marian Hossa scores game winner as Blackhawks beat Bruins

BOSTON (AP) — Marian Hossa scored with 1:26 left to give the Chicago Blackhawks a 1-0 victory over the Boston Bruins on Friday night.

Scott Darling stopped 30 shots for his second shutout of the season.

Tuukka Rask made 21 saves for Boston, which has lost three straight games and four of its last five.

It was a rematch of the 2013 Stanley Cup finals, when Chicago scored twice in the final 76 seconds of the third period in Game 6 to overcome a one-goal deficit and claim the NHL title.

This time, the game was scoreless before the Blackhawks made their final charge. The puck made its way to Tanner Kero on Rask’s left; he slid it across the crease for Hossa, who put it in the net.