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Keith loses teeth, but shows plenty of heart

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CHICAGO -- The chicklets came pouring out of his mouth, and one even got stuck in the back of his throat.
Duncan Keith lost seven teeth in all, three on the top and four on the bottom, when the puck came off Patrick Marleau's stick and hit him square in the mouth.

That was with 12:30 remaining in the second period of Sunday's series-clinching win over the San Jose Sharks. Seven minutes later, after some pronto dental work behind closed doors, Keith was back on the ice for the Chicago Blackhawks.


"It's just missing teeth," Keith said through his bloodied and swollen mouth. "It's a long way from the heart."

Keith said he knew from taking one breath after the puck struck him that he was going to need some serious dental work later Sunday.

"I just knew right away," he said. "I took one breath and it felt like my whole mouth was missing so I knew there were some teeth gone."

At least two of them dropped out of his mouth. He had to cough one up. The others, well, Keith has no idea where they went.

"A bunch of them disintegrated, it felt like," Keith said.

It seemed like the Blackhawks hopes of winning Game 4 were disintegrating, too. San Jose scored a shorthanded goal seconds after the puck hit Keith -- a bounce off his mouth that proved fortuitous for the Sharks -- to grab a 2-0 lead. Keith, Chicago's best defenseman and a Norris Trophy finalist, was locked in a room (without mirrors, by the way), getting worked on as his team was trying to mount a comeback.

Keith admitted he was less than happy with the cirsumstances.

Then he heard "Chelsea Dagger" start blaring throughout the United Center and he knew the Hawks had gotten one back. It was after a lengthy review, but Keith's sidekick,
Brent Seabrook, was credited with his third goal of the playoffs.
All of a sudden Keith felt better.

The needles that the dentists were puncturing his mouth with started to work their magic. His gums and teeth, or what was left of them, started to go numb ("Froze up," Keith called it). He realized that two of the teeth he lost, well, they were fake anyway.

Soon after, he was back on the ice and the Blackhawks were motoring again. Several minutes later, Keith wound up with the secondary assist on
Dave Bolland's game-tying goal.

Even though he missed a few shifts, Keith still logged a game-high 29:02 of ice time, including more than 12 minutes in the third period. He blocked five shots.

"I thought he had a great third period," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. "He's a battler, he's a warrior. Obviously we certainly missed him through that stretch."

"Character" was the word
Marian Hossa used to describe Keith: "I mean, he's a huge part of this team, and if you see a guy like that going down and in a few shifts coming back, that gives a spark for this team a little more. It's the little things like that, and he proved he was one of the leaders on this team."

Patrick Sharp said he told Keith it would be a "blessing in disguise" because now he can go get himself some nice fake teeth.

"He's going to have a great smile in a couple weeks," Sharp added. "He was walking around, skating around, talking to us before the power play, mumbling what we were supposed to do. I don't think anybody understood what he was talking about, but he's one of our leaders."

Keith, who hadn't yet seen himself in the mirror, said his mouth felt surprisingly good after the game.

"It's numb right now," he said. "I'm sure that will wear off in a bit and it won't feel as good.

"You get hit in the teeth, obviously it hurts the gums, but it's not like you got your jaw smashed in," he added. "It's tougher talking, but it's not as bad as you think it is."

Keith was expecting to be in a dentist's chair for several hours Sunday night.

"Not fun," he quipped.

But knowing he could sit there wearing his new Western Conference champions cap was warming Keith's heart and making him feel a whole lot better.

"I'd probably be hurting a lot more if we lost," Keith said. "I don't know what else to say, it was a great win and it feels good now.

"Two of them were fake already, so hopefully I can get some nice teeth now."

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