Duncan Keith returns to practice
CHICAGO -- The day after a 6-2 drubbing by the Vancouver Canucks, Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville made massive lineup changes which included the return of injured defenseman Duncan Keith to practice.
Keith missed the past three and a half games due to a left hand injury suffered against Nashville on Halloween. He stopped short of declaring himself ready for Tuesday's contest against the St. Louis Blues.
"Things are definitely better than I expected," he said after practice Monday. "I think it's gotten a lot better for sure. I'm optimistic about [Tuesday]."
If Keith plays, he most likely will line up with Brent Seabrook for the first time this season. The two have played most of their careers together, including the 2009-2010 season when they helped the Blackhawks to a Stanley Cup title.
"Just like team it doesn't matter," Keith said of the new defensive pairings. "You still have to go out and perform and play the right way. There is familiarity there (with Seabrook)."
If Monday's practice is any indication of Tuesday's lineup, every player will play with someone new.
"Whether it's (changes) coming or not, (Sunday) last night's game will get your attention in a lot of ways," Quenneville said. "You don't mind making changes on a merit basis. Guys will get different opportunities."
At forward, the new lines had Jonathan Toews centering Patrick Sharp and Michael Frolik. Patrick Kane was between Dan Carcillo and Marian Hossa. Dave Bolland centered Rostislav Olesz and Andrew Brunette while Marcus Kruger ran drills with Jamal Mayers and Viktor Stalberg.
"[Quenneville] thinks we need to change things up after a disappointing loss like that," Carcillo said. "It's one game, but we have to put it behind us and learn from it."
Carcillo will be reunited with Kane and Hossa. That line had some chemistry earlier in the season but the other top two lines are completely new. Olesz has been a healthy scratch for the past 11 games and 12 of 14 this year while the third line was broken up for the first time and now employs Brunette. Frolik, meanwhile, gets a chance to play with Toews for the first time this season.
"He can do things you don't expect," Frolik said of Toews. "He's a great player, and I'm kind of skilled too so hopefully it's going to work between us."
On defense all three pairs will be new if Keith plays. He and Seabrook will be the top pair once again while Niklas Hjalmarsson and Nick Leddy will skate together and Sean O'Donnell and Sami Lepisto ran drills as a duo.
"We've given up a lot of goals," Quenneville said. "Whether it's a different partner or different quality of ice, hopefully we get it done."
Including the game Keith was injured, the Hawks have given up 17 goals in the past four contests. The changes on offense and defense leave lineup regulars Steve Montador and Bryan Bickell as possible healthy scratches. Both have played in every game so far this season.
The Blackhawks take on the St. Louis Blues under new head coach Ken Hitchcock on Tuesday in St. Louis. Corey Crawford will start in goal.
Jesse Rogers covers the Blackhawks for ESPN 1000 and ESPNChicago.com.