@Duncan Keith played the second most games, 1,192, in Chicago Blackhawks history. He ranks sixth in assists (520) and 10th in points (625). He won three Stanley Cups and two Norris trophies while patrolling the Hawks’ blue line for 16 seasons. He was a huge part of their success and tonight he will play his first game in Chicago as a visitor.
— Yesterday, his Oilers teammates gave him the red-carpet treatment when he walked in the dressing room.
It will be an emotional return for Keith, and his Oilers teammates will want to get him a win.
— Keith is a player worthy of a video tribute. He played 16 seasons in Chicago and was a major part of their success. Too often, recently, video tributes have been watered down. It likely won’t ever happen, but for me a player needs to play at least four or five years with a team to get a video tribute. But I digress.
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— Keith has played his former team twice in Edmonton already, but returning to Chicago will be much more emotional. The Hawks drafted him in the second round, 54th overall, in 2002 and he played 18 years in the organization. His first two were in Norfolk of the American Hockey League, before he made his NHL debut in 2005-2006. It is debatable who was more important to the Hawks’ playoff success — Keith, @Patrick Kane or @Jonathan Toews. Kane scored the timely goals, but Keith logged more minutes than anyone.
— Keith played his first game in three weeks in Philadelphia on Tuesday, and logged 15:55 of ice time as Jay Woodcroft and Dave Manson continue to play seven defenceman. I expect Keith will play more tonight, unless the Oilers get five or six power plays. Manson, who also played for the Blackhawks and Oilers in his career, knows what tonight means to Keith, and that combined with Keith getting a game under his belt I could see his minutes closer to 19 tonight.
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— In the two months prior to his injury Keith had played quite well. He led all Oilers D-men in 5×5 points and had a 54CF%, 52.1FF%, 52.SF%, 51xGF% and 60.8GF%. In December, January and up until he crashed into the end boards against the Blackhawks on February 9th, he’d been arguably the Oilers most consistent defenceman. His return to the lineup should only help the suddenly defensively sound Oilers.
— His teammates will want to get him this win, and when they watch his video tribute, especially the Oilers great players, they will be reminded of how much success he had. They want that same success in Edmonton. Keith has faced every situation in his career. He’s won Stanley Cups and Olympic gold medals. He knows how to handle high-pressure situations and if Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Darnell Nurse and other key Oilers players ask his opinion on situations he will be a wealth of knowledge. It helps that he can still play a quality game. He isn’t the Norris trophy-caliber player he was a decade ago, but he is still more than capable of helping the Oilers.
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— The Oilers have outscored the opposition 24-14 at 5×5 in the 10 games with Woodcroft as head coach — a massive improvement. @Leon Draisaitl hasn’t been on for a goal against. He’s outscored teams 9-0 when on the ice, which means the Oilers have outscored teams 15-14 when Draisaitl is on the bench. It is a small sample size, and Draisaitl’s CF%, SF% and xGF% aren’t nearly as good, but he’s been very good lately. Maybe it is the coach and new system tweaks, or simply Draisaitl has emerged from his odd annual December funk. Regardless of the reasons, Draisaitl has been excellent since February 11th.
— @Ryan McLeod has played the second most PK time on ice among forwards over the past 10 games (21:57) and he hasn’t been on the ice for a goal against. @Zach Hyman (24:01), Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (19:19) and Draisaitl (15:52) have been on for three while @Derek Ryan (18:40) has been on for two. It might just be an anomaly, but McLeod has looked quite good on the PK. He reads the play well and his speed allows him to get to pucks quickly. If he continues to emerge as a solid penalty killer that is great news for Edmonton, and for McLeod as he looks to expand his role on the team.
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— Chicago has a better record under Derek King, but if you look at their overall stats the Hawks haven’t changed much.
Here is where they rank since King took over on November 6th.
23rd in NHL standings.
29th in goals/game (2.50) and 23rd in GA/game (3.50(.
They are 19th on the PP (19.7%) and 32nd on PK (71.1%).
On the entire season their rankings aren’t much different.
25th in the standings.
30th in goals/game (2.43) and 24th in GA/game (3.39).
They are 16th on the PP (20.4%) and 28th on the PK (75.3).
With King their GF and GA has improved slightly, but their PK and PP have both been worse.
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— Kyle Davidson had the interim tag removed earlier this week and he becomes the 10th man to hold the GM title. Bill Pulford was the Hawks GM on four different occasions, so technically Davidson is the 13th GM, but only 10th person to carry the title. Davidson inherits a team in the middle of a rebuild. He has some big decisions to make over the next 16 months. Dominik Kubalik and Dylan Strome are RFAs this summer. Alex Debrincat is too next summer, while Patrick Kane and Jonathon Toews are UFAs. Will the Hawks trade Kane while he still has value or does he want to remain a Blackhawk his entire career? Davidson is not in an easy position as a rookie GM.
— The Oilers had five power plays in Philadelphia and the first unit played 6:20 of the 8:20 of power play time. They scored 20 seconds into their second man advantage, but in the second period they had three consecutive power plays and didn’t do much. The first unit finished with five shots in 6:20 of TOI. McDavid scored on one of his two shots, but they tried to be too fancy at times. The Hawks’ PK has struggled under King (71.1%), so the Oilers just need good, quick puck movement and shoot when they are open. This is a game where the PP, if it gets multiple opportunities, could control the game.
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