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Keith endures rare benching

11/11/2010

How often does it happen? The reigning Norris Trophy winner gets benched.

It may have only been for a few shifts but the symbolism behind Duncan Keith missing time wasn’t lost.

Keith was involved in both Phoenix goals Wednesday night in the Chicago Blackhawks 2-1 defeat to the Coyotes. That was also the case Sunday in the Hawks' 2-1 loss to Edmonton. He’s minus-7 on the season.

“He’s been good for so long I don’t think we’re worried about it but everyone goes through those situations throughout the year,” teammate Brian Campbell said. “We need [Keith]. He’s going to continue to work hard like he always does.”

Keith is making uncharacteristic -- and unlucky -- mistakes. On the first Phoenix goal, he was careless as he tried to keep the puck in the Coyotes zone. It ended up going the other way for a 2-on-1 break. Seconds later, in his zeal to attack in the offensive zone, a puck jumped over his stick and another 2-on-1 occurred.

Joel Quenneville was asked if this is just a tough stretch for his top defenseman or if there is something deeper going on.

“Tough to say,” Quenneville stated. “I think everyone has stretches when they are on top of their game and some games you’re trying to keep yourself in the game and get through it. He can be better.”

Keith played a season low 20 minutes and 55 seconds Wednesday. That might be the good news. Quenneville didn’t discount the notion that his inconsistent play might be due, in part, to the heavy minutes he has played.

Still, to see Keith missing shifts after the two goals, is not an everyday occurrence. Quenneville didn’t deny the benching.

“He may have missed a few minutes,” Quenneville said.

Keith wasn’t at his locker stall as he usually is after most games on Wednesday night. This may have been one he’d rather not talk about.

At the very least, it has to be one he’d like to forget.