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Bad skates have Hawks' Keith not feeling himself
By Tim Sassone | Daily Herald Staff

After going through about 10 pairs of skates this season, Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith says he hasn't found a comfortable fit. At right, he made Detroit's Tomas Holmstrom uncomfortable in a game earlier this month.

 

Associated Press

Duncan Keith

 

John Starks | Staff Photographer

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Published: 3/29/2010 2:40 PM | Updated: 3/29/2010 11:28 PM

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There's no denying Duncan Keith's play has dropped off since before the Olympic break.

Keith is minus-7 in the last 13 games, eight of which the Blackhawks have lost.

While Keith is not one to make excuses, the all-star defenseman did admit Monday he has not been happy with his skates since before leaving for the Olympics.

Skating is a huge part of Keith's game and there isn't a Hawk more particular about his skates and how they fit and feel and how they are sharpened.

Whereas Keith normally goes through three or four pairs of skates in a season, he said he already is on his ninth or 10th pair with the issue still not resolved to his liking.

"I like my skates to fit right and to feel good," Keith said. "When you feel good out there, you play good. It's been a while since I had a good pair.

"They're just not sending me good pairs of skates, there's not much more to say. Every hockey player likes his equipment to feel good and my skating is my biggest asset. When my skates are feeling good and fit right and are how I like them, then I skate how I want to skate."

Keith was considered the clear-cut favorite to win the Norris Trophy as the NHL's top defenseman until before the Olympic break, but now it figures to be a tight three-way battle for writers' votes between him, Washington's Mike Green and Los Angeles' Drew Doughty.

Keith doesn't want to make a big deal out of his skate problem, but it is what it is.

"They're trying to make the same ones they made from games one to 60," Keith said. "It seems like since the Olympics it's just been a battle, but that stuff is going to happen. They can't make every skate the same way. Every skate is going to be different.

"Everybody at a time or two there's always problems with your skates, or your sticks, helmet, gloves, whatever it be. Guys get bumps and bruises and guys play through injuries. There's no excuse or reason for anything. I need to be at my best and that's the bottom line. It's not because of skates or sticks or anything like that."

Keith is not the only Hawks Olympian who has struggled since returning from Vancouver. Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane are minus-8 in those 13 games with just 3 goals apiece. Brent Seabrook is minus-4. Marian Hossa has 5 goals in 12 games.

"I think guys that went to the Olympics, obviously it's tougher on them with more games and being in an intense situation where you're putting a lot of pressure on yourself, but I don't think there are any excuses," Keith said.

"If you look at teams that won the Olympics, look at (Detroit's Nicklas) Lidstrom and those types of players. They always find ways to get energy and play the right way."

The Hawks haven't played with much energy or speed in their game since before the Olympics - or "pace," as coach Joel Quenneville calls it.

"The urgency is the one thing we need to pick up because that reflects the pace of our game and that makes us successful," Quenneville said. "There's more speed in our game and we need to bring it out."

The Hawks have eight games left until the start of the playoffs to right the ship. History shows they were able to do it last season after going 1-5-2 in early March before finishing 9-2-1 and riding that momentum to the Western Conference finals.

"We went through something like this last year and we came out of it better and stronger as a team," Toews said. "We're sticking together in here. We're not going to let something like this frustrate us and get it down.

"We need to finds a way to get excited again and motivate ourselves."

Hawks @ St. Louis Blues

Time: 7 p.m. Tuesday

TV: Versus

Radio: WGN 720-AM

What to watch: With only seven games to play, the Blues might need to run the table to even have a shot to make the playoffs. If they don't make it their league-worst home record of 14-18-5 will be why. The Blues are first in the NHL in penalty killing, which is bad news for the struggling Hawks power play.

Season series: Hawks lead 3-1 and have outscored the Blues 14-6.

Next: Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center, Wednesday 7 p.m.