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Blackhawks' Duncan Keith out 4-6 weeks following knee surgery

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Chicago suffers a big blow to its blue line.

Mike Carlson/Getty Images

Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith will be out four to six weeks following surgery to repair a right knee meniscal tear, the team announced Tuesday.

"The surgery was successful and we expect him to return to full hockey activities in approximately 4-6 weeks," said Blackhawks head team physician Dr. Michael Terry, who performed the surgery at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

The Hawks haven't specified how or when Keith suffered the injury. He skated 27 shifts and 25:34 of ice time in Saturday's 4-1 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Hawks could opt to place Keith on long-term injured reserve, and save his $5.54 million cap hit. He would have to miss 10 games and 24 days.

A six-week timetable ends Dec. 1 - an 18-game stretch without Keith for the Hawks, which includes 14 games against Western Conference teams highlighted by their annual West Coast circus trip. The Hawks play Central Division foes Minnesota (Oct. 30 and Dec. 1) and St. Louis (Nov. 4 and Nov. 14) twice and Winnipeg on Oct. 29 during that 18-game swing.

The loss of Keith is a big blow to the Hawks, whose main weakness is a lack of depth on the blue line. An assistant captain, Keith has been the leader of a strong defense for years. Last season, Chicago ranked second in the NHL in goals against per game at 2.27.

Keith was the unanimous winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy as the MVP of the Stanley Cup playoffs when the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup last season. He was the winner of the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s best defenseman in 2010 and 2014.

Keith has two assists in six games this season while ranking 17th in the NHL in average ice time at 24:21 per game. Since his NHL debut in 2005, Keith has never missed more than eight games in a season. He has 75 goals and 342 assists in 772 regular-season games.

The Hawks were already active in the trade market looking for a defenseman and now likely will have to shop around for added depth.

Here's the Hawks defensive lines during Tuesday's practice:

Trevor Daley David Rundbald
Niklas Hjalmarsson Trevor van Riemsdyk
Viktor Svedberg Brent Seabrook