Duncan Keith talks Seabrook, Jokiharju

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Chicago Blackhawks’ Duncan Keith speaks to a reporter during the NHL hockey team’s convention Friday, July 27, 2018, in Chicago (AP Photo/Annie Rice)

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by Scott King

There hasn’t been more eyes on the Blackhawks’ defense in some time. One of the biggest questions entering the regular season will be if they can prove they have what it takes to help the team secure a playoff spot. After a disappointing individual season last year (two goals, 30 assists, +/- rating of -29), especially offensively, defenseman Duncan Keith aims to get back to basics this season.

I think first and foremost just make sure to get my shot, hit the net and shoot it as hard as I can,” the 2015 Conn Smythe Trophy winner said. “Just being offensive and trying to join the play when I can and getting my shot through from the point. I’ve never been a high goal-scorer my whole career, but obviously I know I can score more and do better than I did last year.”

The three-time Stanley Cup champion and two-time Norris Trophy winner knows the more he’s in on plays, the better off the Hawks are. “Just being involved more I think leads to more chances,” Keith said.

Keith and Brent Seabrook have been paired in camp this week after Seabrook sat a couple days over the weekend with an abdominal injury.

“He looks good to me,” Keith said. “I always enjoyed playing with him. We’ve got familiarity, played a long time with each other, not so much the last several years. To me, Brent’s always a guy that positionally he knows where to be, he always makes a great first pass. Passes are flat, which makes a big difference when you’re trying to handle the puck.

“It’s on your tape and it makes everybody’s game that much easier. He’s always helped my game out. I know he’s put a lot of work into the offseason and he feels good. We’re all trying to do everything we can to turn it around.”

Following Monday’s training camp session, Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville said he was impressed with how well-conditioned the team appears to be in the early stages of camp.

“Everybody seems like they’re in good shape and lean and ready to go,” Keith said. “I think that’s just kind of a sign of the times more than anything. Every team is in good shape and there’s no time to slack off. The league is so fast.”

Prior to Seabrook’s return, Hawks prospect Henri Jokiharju was paired with Keith and also took turns rotating in with the veteran D-men once Seabrook joined the team.

The 19-year-old Finnish defenseman was the Blackhawks’ first round pick (29th overall) in the 2017 NHL draft.

“I like him,” Keith said. “He’s a hard worker off the ice. He’s a good young guy who’s fun to be around. You can see his skill level out on the ice. His talent is there. Just the way he handles the puck, his patience and poise with puck, he’s smooth with it. You can see why he’s a high-round pick, so it’s just a matter of adjusting to some of the speed here and getting used to that and see how it goes. It looks good so far.”

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