by Scott King
Three-time Stanley Cup champion Duncan Keith will play in his 1,000th NHL game on Saturday when the Blackhawks (2-0-2) take on the St. Louis Blues (1-1-1) at the United Center.
“It’s obviously a huge accomplishment,” the Blackhawks defenseman said. “I’m proud of it. More than anything I’m proud to be in the NHL this long and play with a lot of great players and a great organization for a great coach, just all the good players and good guys that I’ve been able to be on this ride with.”
Individually, there was already plenty for Keith to be proud of: those cups, a Conn Smythe trophy, two Olympic gold medals and the fact that he will skate in all 1,000 games for the team that drafted him in the second round of the 2002 NHL Draft at number 54 overall.
“What a great career he’s had,” Patrick Kane said. “If you look at two Norris trophies, three cups obviously, a Conn Smythe trophy, how well he’s played in the playoffs, how he’s able to come in in tip top shape every year and be able to play so many minutes for our team, be the backbone of our defense for a long time here.
“Even though he’s at 1,000 games he doesn’t really seem like he’s getting any older or slowing down. Pretty impressive. It’s a great accomplishment. [Brent] Seabrook had his last year with [his] 1,000th game. That was a pretty crazy night with [Dylan] Sikura getting his first points.
“Obviously Scott Foster coming in and playing goalie. No one really remembers that 1,000th game for Seabs’, so hopefully it’ll be a little bit more memorable for Duncs’. Great careers for both of those guys. It will be fun to celebrate it at home.
The blueliner had 543 points (92 goals, 451 assists) in his past 13 seasons and has had a strong start to this season with three assists in four games.
“It’s amazing because he’s done it all,” Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said. “Individual awards, Stanley Cups, Conn Smythe, all that stuff, to get to 1,000 games… I mentioned it last year with Seabs’ making it that far, early in my career never seeing [anyone] get to that accomplishment and realizing how much hockey the guys have played.
“All the stories, all the great times and the ups and the downs that you have. It’s a pretty meaningful accomplishment. It was kind of cool to have been there for the majority of [his career].”
Seabrook may have reached the grand milestone prior to Keith, but the two played in their first game with the Hawks together on October 5, 2005. Like most successful relationships, it wasn’t always sunshine and rainbows.
“It’s been a long marriage,” Seabrook said. “We’ve had our marital spats over the years and all that, but he’s a great guy. It was never personal between the two of us. We wanted to win, especially when we were playing a lot of minutes together in a lot of big games. We wanted the best out of each other, and that was part of pushing each other to be the best.
“That was when our fights would boil over, but [when] the game was over we were back to [being] good buddies, best buddies and just enjoying it. We’ve always had the same goal, we want to win. We want to continue to win, we want to continue to give ourselves opportunities to win the Stanley Cup.”
Seabrook continued: “Somebody I look up to, I’m proud to have shared a locker stall beside for so many years.” … “He’s a true friend. One of my best friends and it’s been a lot of fun.”
The impressive thing with Keith isn’t that he’s reaching 1,000 games. It’s the overall quality of his performances in those 1,000 games.
“You look at him playing 1,000 games and you think about number two,” Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville said. “You think of not just the regular season games, but the demand on him over the course of the season, not the biggest guy.
“And then the minutes that he’s played in these games is high-end. He had those playoff games in the series knowing that he’d be targeted and he just seems like the more the season got deeper and more intense, his ice time would increase and he’d handle it like nothing.
“It’s a 1,000th game, but you look at the number of ice [time] or shifts, how many times he’s been out there against good players or in big situations, it even grows on you how important those games are. He just didn’t play 1,000 games, he was a big part of every one of them.”
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