Duncan Keith is set to become the sixth player in Blackhawks history and 12th active player in the NHL to hit the 1,000-game mark on Saturday against the St. Louis Blues. It's not usually a milestone players set out to reach when their career starts, but one that you certainly appreciate when you hit it and look back at how everything unfolded.
"It's obviously a huge accomplishment," Keith 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."
One player who's been there with Keith from Day 1 is Brent Seabrook, who joined the 1K club last season on March 29 against the Winnipeg Jets — overshadowed by The Scott Foster Game. They've been roommates, teammates, defense partners and have grown to become close friends.
"It has been a long marriage," said Seabrook, who is set to surpass Bob Murray as the franchise leader in games played by a defenseman with 1,009. "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 the 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 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 and we want to continue to give ourselves opportunities to win the Stanley Cup."
The Blackhawks don't win three Stanley Cups without Keith, who's a two-time Norris Trophy recipient and a Conn Smythe winner. He has been an absolute anchor on the back end for Chicago since he arrived in the NHL in 2005.
But his value wasn't appreciated until the Blackhawks made the playoffs and you realized how many minutes he would eat up, important ones at that. Nobody has played heavier minutes than Keith, who always looked like he could go longer — just ask CM Punk — despite a handful of triple overtime games that saw him log around 50 minutes.
"The more he plays, the more he likes it, the better he plays," coach Joel Quenneville said. "For a number of years and a number of games, and the bigger the games, the more he would play. It's not normal. But now not too many guys are up over 25 [minutes] in today's game. ... But he has done it for a long time."
And there's no desire to scale it back either, mostly because Keith doesn't want to, even at age 35.
"That's a question that's always been there," Quenneville said. "In the past, it's not even a consideration because he's fine. He's always fine. He's like, 'No, I'm fine.' It's the last thing he's worried about it being cut back and if you want to cut back he looks at you like, 'Why?' It's one of those things that he wants to play like every single player that's in any position, they want to play and they want to play more and in his situation, more might be a little too much."
Keith has been the Blackhawks' most important player on defense for more than a decade. He still is. And he's still got a lot of hockey left in the tank.
“What a great career he’s had,” Patrick Kane said. “You look at two Norris Trophies, three Cups, 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, be the backbone of our defense for a long time here. Even though he’s played 1,000 games, it doesn’t seem like he’s getting any older or slowing down. Pretty impressive.”