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Hawks’ Keith finally catches welcome break

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM



Defenseman Duncan Keith has been looking forward to the Blackhawks’ five-day break. And who can blame him?

From all the regular-season minutes to back-to-back long postseasons to leading Canada in ice time in the Olympics last year, no one has played more hockey than Keith the last few years.

“I’m definitely going to use this week to rest up and get as much energy as I can,” Keith said. “I feel all right now. I feel like my energy is coming back. I feel good.”

Having a rejuvenated Keith is important for the Hawks. The defending Norris Trophy winner as the league’s best defenseman, Keith is the driving force behind many things the defending champions do.

So it should come as no surprise that the Hawks had an up-and-down first half because Keith had his ups and downs.

“He took a couple of days off last week, and I think it helps,” coach Joel Quenne-ville said. “This will be good for him. .  .  . It’s a chance to catch up, re-energize and refocus. He’s coming off a couple of games where he was trending in the right direction.”

With three goals, 26 points and a minus-3 rating, Keith knows his numbers, especially his plus-minus, are lagging behind what he accomplished in past seasons.

“Everyone seems to look at the plus-minus,” Keith said. “My plus-minus is down. But I was looking at plus-minus [Monday] and [Detroit Red Wings star] Nicklas Lidstrom is a minus-1. Sometimes it’s the way it goes. You need to be on the ice for goals to get pluses. It just seems for whatever reason it’s been a lot harder to get those this year.

“But I think my game is coming along. I had some rough games earlier on, and I had some good games. I was inconsistent for the first 20 games. But I feel fine now, and I want to keep going like that.”

Keith might not be in the Norris discussion right now, but he still commands respect from opponents. He also has blossomed into a star as evidenced by his All-Star selection by fans.

Sometimes it’s not so much a physical break that’s needed but a mental one.

“It’s nice to be at home and spend some time with the family,” Keith said. “We had a really busy schedule the first half of the year, especially in the first 25 games. I want to use this week and even next week with the All-Star break to rest up and get going for the last run.”



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