Searching for a boost to help halt their current rough stretch, the Chicago Blackhawks might get what they need if Duncan Keith is back on the ice this weekend.
The two-time Norris Trophy winner could return from injury as early as Saturday night when the visiting Blackhawks look to avoid a fourth consecutive loss to the rival St. Louis Blues.
Out since Oct. 17, Keith is eligible to return Saturday from long-term injured reserve after undergoing surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee. Initially expected to miss four-to-six weeks, the three-time All-Star defenseman said he's felt good while skating this week and could be ready for this contest or Sunday against Calgary.
"He's soon, he's close," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville told the NHL's official website this week.
Keith had two assists and was a minus-2 while Chicago (8-7-1) split the six games he played. Eager to get back on the ice, Keith doesn't expect to be limited in his mobility when he finally returns.
"It's just a meniscus," he said. "I didn't get my leg amputated here. It's just a matter of getting my skating legs back and getting going again. That's it."
The Blackhawks gave up two goals in winning their first game without Keith then recorded back-to-back shutouts. Since then, they've yielded 25 goals and allowed opponents to convert 5 of 15 power plays while going 2-4-1.
In addition to Keith, Chicago will likely have veteran defenseman Michael Rozsival (ankle) back for either game this weekend. Rozsival was activated on Friday after being out since May 7 against Minnesota in the Western Conference semifinals.
Chicago could have used both Nov. 4 when it led St. Louis 5-2 after one period but lost 6-5 in overtime.
Corey Crawford made 23 saves in a defeat that began the Blackhawks' current 1-2-1 stretch. Crawford, who has a 4.15 goals-against average in the last four contests, was in net for each of Chicago's three straight losses to the Blues. Backup Scott Darling, 1-2-0 with a 3.36 GAA as a starter this season, has never faced St. Louis.
Blues coach Ken Hitchcock called the opener of his team's four-game trip last week in Chicago "a real courageous win." St. Louis followed that victory with shutouts at Nashville and New Jersey before its three-game winning stretch ended with Thursday's 6-3 loss to the sizzling New York Rangers.
The Blues (11-4-1) have yet to lose consecutive games in regulation.
Vladimir Tarasenko scored his eighth goal to tie Alexander Steen for the team lead, but Jake Allen was pulled for allowing three goals on five shots in the first period. St. Louis' 17 goals given up in the opening period are among the most in the NHL.
"We've got to be better from the first drop of the puck," forward David Backes said. "That's on us. We've got to be better from the start."
Allen, who allowed five goals in his six starts prior to Thursday, stopped 27 of 28 shots in relief of Brian Elliott at Chicago last week. After yielding three third-period goals in a 4-1 loss to the Blackhawks on Dec. 3, Allen is 3-0-0 with a 1.08 GAA against them.
Tarasenko has three goals and two assists in his last six games, and two with an assist in his last two against the Blackhawks. Steen snapped a four-game regular-season point drought against Chicago with two goals this month.