Duncan Keith never gets out of shape.
The veteran Blackhawks defenseman is always fit and has returned from the lockout in top shape with one goal in mind: to improve and get stronger physically.
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"We're just focused on staying in the moment and working as hard as we can," Keith said. "We're not only trying to stay in shape but get into improved shape, stronger physically. There's a difference between staying in shape and trying to improve."
Keith knows the importance of getting off to a fast start in the shortened 48-game schedule.
"Every year the start's important," Keith said. "Now that it's a short season it's going to be so much more important to be on the same page right away. The teams that play the best team game right away are going to be tough to beat."
The Hawks will start the season with a tough assignment against the defending Stanley Cup champion Kings on Jan. 19 at Staples Center.
"They had a great run in the playoffs last year and were pretty dominant at the end of the year," Patrick Kane said. "One thing about that team is they haven't lost too many players so it's going to be a tough matchup to open up. But we all have the same time to prepare."
Patrick Kane was one of four Hawks back from Europe in time for Thursday's informal skate at Johnny's IceHouse West.
He was joined by Viktor Stalberg, Bryan Bickell and Michal Frolik. Nick Leddy was also on hand after being recalled from Rockford.
Only four Hawks are not back in town yet: Ray Emery, Michal Rozisval, Steve Montador and Johnny Oduya.
The rumor is the Hawks will play their first home game on Jan. 22. The full schedule will be released after the players finish their vote on ratifying the new collective bargaining agreement at some point Friday or Saturday…New defenseman Sheldon Brookbank will wear uniform No. 17...In Thursday's Daily Herald, Chicago Wolves skating and skills coach Kenny McCudden was identified as Kenny McCuddy.