Blackhawks Fall in Minnesota, Keith Misses Game with Illness

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Chris Kuc, Chicago Tribune reporter10:51 p.m. CST, January 23, 2014

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Set to face a Wild team that tends to make every goal a big one, the news that top defenseman Duncan Keith wouldn’t be in uniform had to be disheartening for the Blackhawks.

The defending Stanley Cup champions played like it as the Hawks fell behind early and weren’t able to mount much offensively Thursday night during a 2-1 loss to the Wild at Xcel Energy Center.

With Norris Trophy candidate Keith ill and missing his first game of the season, the Hawks allowed two first-period goals to the normally offensively challenged Wild and never really threatened until the final minute.

“We didn’t give up a ton but (the Wild) weren’t looking to generate much,” Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. “Our defense was OK but just like our whole game, it was just OK. I don’t think anybody jumped off the table who we could say had a great game.”

Jason Pominville and Matt Cooke scored for the Wild and that was enough for Darcy Kuemper as the Wild’s third-string goaltender rode a strong defensive effort from his teammates and allowed only a Patrick Kane goal with 31.2 seconds remaining.

“We didn’t really get in front of the net as much as we wanted to,” Hawks defenseman Johnny Oduya said. “They play a good defensive style so they want to keep you on the outside.”

Antti Raanta suffered the loss in goal for the Hawks while giving starter Corey Crawford the night off in the second of back-to-back games. The rookie settled himself after Cooke’s goal — one Raanta would like back — to put the Hawks in a two-goal hole.

“When you give up two goals in the first period and you’re behind all the time it’s much harder to play (because) Minnesota’s defense was so good at center ice,” Raanta said. “The second goal is still inside the head. (You) try to get some better way to move your ass and be (in) the right place.”

Playing with the lead, the Wild clogged the shooting lanes and most of the Hawks’ 34 shots came from beyond the circles.

“We didn’t look to get some greasy stuff at the net,” Quenneville said. “We were a little bit too much on the outside and it’s tough to get direct plays, especially in the slot. We were maybe looking for a little bit too much instead of the ugly stuff.”

The Hawks finally broke through with Raanta out of the net and an extra attacker on the ice when Kane snapped an 11-game scoreless skid with his score in the final minute.

It was too little, too late as the Hawks fell while without the services of Keith.

“Duncan wasn’t here but we should be able to step up and play a good team game defensively,” Oduya said. “He’s always a force and is a leader on this team. It’s tough when a guy like that isn’t in your lineup … but it’s nothing we blame this game on.”

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