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Duncan Keith cleared for contact, closing in on return from knee injury

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The reigning Conn Smythe winner will be back soon.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Duncan Keith could be gearing up to return this weekend. The Chicago Blackhawks defenseman has been cleared for contact and head coach Joel Quenneville "seemed optimistic" Tuesday that Keith could make his return either Saturday against the St. Louis Blues or Sunday against the Calgary Flames.

Keith underwent knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus in October after initially trying to fight through the pain to begin the season. The defenseman said recently that he originally suffered the injury during the 2015 Stanley Cup Final and hoped an offseason of rest would allow him to avoid missing time. That obviously didn't pan out, however, forcing Keith to undergo the procedure to fix his ailing knee.

The defenseman has been on LTIR since then, helping to clear roster room and cap space for the Hawks during his absence. The timetable for the injury was originally set at 4-6 weeks. Saturday will be the first day Keith is eligible to return from LTIR.

The Blackhawks have fought hard without Keith in the lineup, but are still sixth in the Central Division with a 8-6-1 record. Hopefully the game on Thursday against the New Jersey Devils is the Hawks' last -- or one of the last -- without Keith in the lineup for a while.