Blackhawks Notebook: Brett Connolly, Duncan Keith Out for Final Two Games

Blackhawks notebook: Connolly, Keith out for final two games originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

The Blackhawks held their final practice of the season on Saturday at Fifth Third Arena as they prepare to host the Dallas Stars on Sunday and Monday before putting a bow on the 2020-21 campaign. It was a loose atmosphere and a chance for the group to enjoy themselves one last time.

The Stars are fighting for their playoff lives, but they need help from the top-seeded Carolina Hurricanes to get in because the Nashville Predators can secure the No. 4 seed in the Central Division with a win in any fashion on Saturday. The Blackhawks are hoping the final two games will mean something to Dallas, for the sake of their own development.

"We're going to continue to give young guys opportunity," head coach Jeremy Colliton said. "For some, it's their 40th, 50th game and for others, it's their second or third. Hopefully, Dallas is still playing for their survival. That would be a great experience for our guys and we've got to continue to make the best of these opportunities.

"On the Carolina trip, [we] played pretty hard. The third game was our best as far as managing the game, but all three games certainly had some good moments and we want to continue to add to that this weekend."

The Stars had some fun on social media ahead of Saturday night's contest between Carolina and Nashville by changing their logo on Twitter to support the Hurricanes. You love to see that kind of stuff. No doubt they'll be scoreboard watching from their hotel rooms in Chicago and will play with desperation on Sunday if their playoff hopes are still alive.

Injury updates:

Brett Connolly and Duncan Keith are in the NHL's concussion protocol and are not expected to play in the final two games, according to Colliton.

On a more positive note, Ryan Carpenter (concussion protocol) and Calvin de Haan (hip) practiced with the team for the first time since being sidelined. It's unclear whether either of them will play in the final two games, but it's a good sign that their injuries won't linger into the offseason.

"Hopefully they can leave feeling healthy and 100 percent," Colliton said. "Neither one of them's cleared to play yet. Kind of taking it day by day."

Reuniting with family

It's been a mentally challenging hockey season for everyone involved. The players, the coaches, the training staff. Sacrifices had to be made and tight restrictions were put in order for safety reasons and to ensure a completed season without any hiccups.

With the season coming to a close for the Blackhawks and discussion around mental health becoming more prevalent in society, I asked Colliton how he's handled his situation, personally, after being apart from his family for so long. His wife and kids remained in Calgary all season.

"Obviously this pandemic has affected everyone," Colliton said. "Everyone’s life is a little bit different, but I think it’s always good to remember that there's lots of people who have [dealt with] loss of life and loss of loved ones and lots of secondary effects, so I’m not feeling sorry for myself. Having said that ... it'll be good to see the kids and reintroduce myself. And my wife, too. Hopefully she still likes me."

He was asked a follow-up and, respectfully, downplayed his own situation, knowing that others haven't been as fortunate during the pandemic.

"I hate to talk too much about any sacrifice that I've made personally," Colliton said. "We're in a pretty good spot in life compared to how some other people have been affected. But, yeah, you miss your kids, miss your family, missing a lot. I've got a two and a half year old — she's changed a lot in the past few months. It's just part of what you do sometimes. I think, as I've said to the players, when you go through adversity you've got to make the best of it [and] come through it."

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