Blackhawks' Keith better than ever
Duncan Keith had a special season in 2009-10 when he won the Norris Trophy as the NHL's best defenseman.
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said Monday he thinks Keith is playing even better now.
Keith was plus-13 with 24 points through Sunday's games ó 23 of those points assists, which tied Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby for third in the NHL. Keith on Monday was named the league's third star for last week.
"He's at a different level right now," Quenneville said. "He had an outstanding year that year, but you get better with age. We like the progress.
"He's playing well. He's defending well, has a great gap. Offensively he's got the puck a lot, his patience and his play recognition is high end, and he's getting shots through."
Keith had a great road trip, which was a big reason why the Hawks won six of the seven games.
"I think our team game was pretty solid, and you want to keep that going," he said. "It helps when the forwards are backchecking and they're being smart with the puck.
"It's everybody, not forwards, defensemen ó it's everybody out on the ice working as a unit."
Raving about Raanta:
So far Corey Crawford likes what he has seen from Finnish rookie Antti Raanta, who won two games on the road trip in two starts.
"I like the fact he lets the play come to him," Crawford said. "Sometimes your first game you want to do a little too much, but he's been really good just being in position and letting the play come to him and not looking for saves when they're not there."
Crawford also was thankful for the rest Raanta provided him.
"I probably have a little more energy," Crawford said. "It worked well for us last year too with (Ray) Emery, having two guys going. It's nice to have another guy step in."
Joel Quenneville is happy to be able to use Raanta, particularly with several sets of back-to-back games on the horizon.
"He's had a good start to his career and has really helped us solidify that situation for us," Quenneville said. "I think our goaltending situation is fine.
"Crow had a busy workload there, and I know in December we're busy again. With the back-to-back games you can probably expect (Raanta) to get some starts in there."
Keeping the red out?
In several stops on their seven-game road trip, the Hawks were greeted with more cheers than the home team.
Duncan Keith said it was definitely noticed by the players.
"It's awesome," he said. "You skate around in warmup and you see so many fans at the glass there. It's definitely an honor to be part of this team and this organization with so many Blackhawks fans.
"Not every team gets that, where they go into the other team's building and there are fans everywhere and the fans are cheering for you. It's pretty cool to be part of a team that has that fan base."
Joel Quenneville said left wing Bryan Bickell, out since Nov. 18 with a left-leg injury, has progressed but that he isn't close to resuming skating. Quenneville had no update on goalie Nikolai Khabibulin, who remains out indefinitely with his left-leg injury.
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