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updated: 5/8/2013 3:44 PM

Keith shows why he's a Hawks leader

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  • As a new father, defenseman Duncan Keith will likely get a warm reception at the United Center from Blackhawks fans when the team takes the ice on Thursday for Game 5 against Minnesota.

      As a new father, defenseman Duncan Keith will likely get a warm reception at the United Center from Blackhawks fans when the team takes the ice on Thursday for Game 5 against Minnesota.
    Associated Press/file

 
 

Duncan Keith's Blackhawks teammates appreciated the effort the defenseman made to get back to Minnesota and play in Game 4 on Tuesday only hours after witnessing the birth of his son.

Colton Duncan Keith was born at 11:15 a.m. in Chicago, and at 6:30 p.m. Keith walked into the Xcel Energy Center ready to play.

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Keith skated a team-high 24 minutes in the Hawks' 3-0 win.

"That's the reason why he's a leader on our team and a big part of it," Patrick Sharp said.

"For sure the adrenaline helped," Keith said. "I'm not going to sit here and tell you I felt great."

Sharp said the team was willing to overlook the fact Keith violated a team rule with his late arrival.

"I'm not sure we're going to fine him for being late, but he played a great game considering the circumstances," Sharp said. "That was pretty cool to see him come in an hour late.

"I went through that last year and you're thinking about a thousand things. The last thing on your mind is hockey."

Goalie Corey Crawford said everyone was happy to see Keith play.

"He's a great guy and we're happy for him and his wife," Crawford said. "It's crazy to think he didn't get much rest to play as well as he did."

Keith never considered not playing since it is less than an hour flight from Chicago to Minnesota.

"I don't think so," Keith said. "I guess you kind of deal with that when it comes up. My wife had the baby around 11 o'clock after being in labor pretty much the whole night. It was a matter knowing I could still get there still so why not try to get there, play the game, and I could be back right after the game."

Keith never slept Monday night. He was getting ready for bed when he got the call from his wife, Kelly-Rae, saying she was going into labor. He returned home to be with his wife through most of her labor and was there when the baby was born.

"It was just a whirlwind, really," Keith said. "It's awesome, though. You hear it all the time when people have kids, that first time you see your baby is very special."

Appropriately, the No. 7 was everywhere in the birth process. That's Brent Seabrook's number and Keith made sure his longtime friend and defense partner was aware of the situation.

"We let him know that right away," Keith said. "May 7, seven pounds, seven ounces; he's all pumped about that."

Keith believes the Hawks' best hockey is still ahead of them. While they played OK on Tuesday in Game 4, it was Crawford and the penalty killers making the victory possible.

"We know we can still keep getting better," Keith said. "That's the good thing. Obviously it's a tough building and they get the crowd behind them. You try to weather that storm. Anytime you're playing on the road it's going to be a little helter-skelter at times. You've got to stay composed."

Minnesota doesn't have a power-play goal in the series. The Wild was 0-for-6 in Game 4 and is 0-for-15 for the series.

"We've got to score on the power play," the Wild's Zach Parise said. "They collapse well when they get a lead and get in the shooting lanes. They play a good defensive style."

Keith is a big part of the penalty killers and the defense.

"Our penalty killing has been huge," Keith said. "All year long it's kind of been a staple to our team. Our power play is not exactly firing on all cylinders, but you look around the league and not every power play is firing as good as they want."

Keith had 2 of the Hawks' 26 blocked shots.

"You have to block those shots in the playoffs," Keith said. "It just relieves so much pressure. If those shots get through, then it's just a scramble around our net and they continue to buzz around in our zone. If you get those blocks, it kills the play."

• Follow Tim's hockey reports on Twitter @TimSassone and check out his Between the Circles blog at dailyherald.com.

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