Duncan Keith: Working Hard On The Ice, But How Much Is Too Much?

Mikal ElyseCorrespondent IOctober 15, 2010

CHICAGO - OCTOBER 13: Duncan Keith #2 of the Chicago Blackhawks controls the puck under pressure from Marcel Goc #9 of the Nashville Predators at the United Center on October 13, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. The Predators defeated the Blackhawks 3-2. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Chicago Blackhawks dealt with an abundance of issues during the off-season.

Departures of fellow teammates and fan favorites kept all of Chicago and the hockey world on their toes, despite being the Stanley Cup Champions.

Now that the new season is set in motion the only troubles to be considered were can the kids play, and can the Blackhawks repeat?

Boy were we wrong.

Just a week into the 2010-2011 season , and the Blackhawks have dealt with a handful of problems.

Losing both Patrick Sharp and Patrick Kane for a game or more due to injury and illness only devastates the offense.

Let's not forget already starting off the season without defenseman Brian Campbell was a dreadful struggle within itself.

At this moment, they are facing their last game without another critical defenseman, Niklas Hjalmarsson due to a suspension.

The only conclusion one can come to for the defensively challenged Blackhawks at the moment is to give Duncan Keith more ice time.

It was predictable once the news broke out on Campbell's injury.  Now since the short suspension of Hjalmarsson, Keith is almost guaranteed to put in additional minutes on the blue line.

Keith was previously averaging 31:47 this season with Campbell alone being out of the blue line equation.

He logged in over 30 minutes in all four games played thus far. 

Even with Jassen Cullimore being brought up from the Rockford Icehogs for tonight's game, I doubt that will change much for Keith, if anything at all.

Keith was rarely in this position last season with the Blackhawks defense being particularly healthy for the majority of the season. However this season, the Stanley Cup Champions should show signs of fatigue for playing until early June. 

This predicament can only hurt Keith down the stretch.

Keith may have showed his toughness after having seven teeth knocked out by a puck during Game 4 of the Western Conference finals against San Jose by returning only minutes after.

But he is only human.  After all the durability he brought to the ice last season, these extra minutes may not be up for the task come June.

Mikal Elyse is a Featured Columnist for bleacherreport.com and co-owner of chicagosportsauthority.com