A couple sure-things: Duncan Keith will be in Penticton this Saturday, and he will be on Team Canada in Sochi, for the 2014 Winter Olympics.
Keith – the Penticton Panthers (now Vees) alumnus and two-time Stanley Cup champion – is widely considered to be one of seven or eight already-selected player for next February’s Olympic squad, along with players like Sidney Crosby, Steven Stamkos, John Tavares, and his teammate Jonathan Toews.
It’s a flattering testament to the blueliner’s abilities, but one he’s trying to keep in perspective.
“I don’t really consider myself too much,” he told NHL.com’s Dan Rosen this week in Calgary, at Canada’s orientation camp. “It’s nice to hear those things and get your name mentioned but, at the same time, it’s a matter of doing what needs to be done to make that team and help that team win a gold medal.”
As a smooth, offensive-minded – but defensively dependable – defenceman who can move as fast backwards as he can forwards, Keith will be counted on to transition from the small-ice sized of Vancouver’s Rogers Arena to the Olympic-sized rinks of Russia.
NHL ice rinks are 200-by-85 feet, whereas “international” ice is 200-by-100 feet.
“I think there’s certain situations where you need to be smart positionally and in the d-zone, especially,” said Keith. “There’s other times where you need to use your speed and skating ability to create space and to eliminate space for the other team.”
Keith was joined in Calgary this week with his Chicago teammates Toews, Patrick Sharp, Brent Seabrook, and goaltender Corey Crawford.
Last season, Crawford put a disappointing 2012 behind him and backstopped the Blackhawks to their second Stanley Cup in four seasons, erasing any doubt of his ability and putting himself on Canada’s radar.
Canada’s current goalie situation is wide-open, and Crawford could win the job. Keith believes it’s well-deserved.
“There’s no reason that he can’t (win it). He was great for us last season and in the playoffs, I think everybody saw what he was able to do for us,” Keith told Rosen.
“I know, personally, playing in front of him, I love it. I think he’s a great teammate, a great guy, and makes playing in front of him a lot of fun.”