Keith Carney feels he has something to prove.
The former University of Maine All-American has established himself as a dependable National Hockey League defenseman with 1,018 NHL regular season games under his belt for five different teams. He has 45 goals and 183 assists.
He has also appeared in 91 Stanley Cup playoff games.
But after playing in 80 games for the Minnesota Wild two years ago, he appeared in just 61 for the Wild last season. He was a healthy scratch for the other 21.
Carney, a free agent, shopped his services around and wound up receiving several tryout offers from NHL teams.
He eventually chose Chicago over Dallas and Vancouver.
The 38-year-old Carney spent five seasons with the Blackhawks from 1993-94 to 1997-98.
“That’s one of the big reasons I’m here,” said Carney. “I enjoyed my time here and I like the direction and organization is moving.
“They’re doing a lot of great things. They’ve got a lot of good, young players and this is a chance for me to come in and bring some stability and experience to the team,” added Carney. “I thought it would be a good fit for me and a good place for me to finish up [my career], maybe. They’re going to be a playoff winner real soon and I hope I’m a part of that.”
Blackhawks General Manager Dale Tallon told the Chicago Sun-Times “[Carney] is a good, solid player and a great person in the locker room. He’d be great with our kids and he has a history in Chicago.”
Carney is one of several former Black Bears in NHL camps including fellow Blackhawk Doug Janik, who played in 61 games for the Tampa Bay Lightning last season and signed a one-year contract with Chicago.
Center Ben Guite and defenseman Brett Clark are back with the Colorado Avalanche; goalie Jimmy Howard is battling former UNH standout Ty Conklin to back up Chris Osgood for the Stanley Cup-champion Detroit Red Wings; St. Louis Blues left winger Paul Kariya, a former Hobey Baker Award winner, begins his 14th NHL season; second-year pro Teddy Purcell is a right winger for the Los Angeles Kings; Dustin Penner returns for his second season on the left wing for Edmonton; defenseman Mike Lundin starts his second pro season with the Tampa Bay Lightning and wing-center Greg Moore will try to crack the New York Rangers’ lineup.
Goalie Ben Bishop and right wing Andrew Sweetland, both rookies, will probably start the season in the AHL. Bishop is in the St. Louis organization while Sweetland signed a free agent deal with the Florida Panthers.
Carney is still confident he can be a steady contributor.
“It was a tough year last season. I had a decent year but we had a lot of depth on defense. Because I played in only 61 games, I still have a lot left in my tank. I came back ready to play 82 games,” said the Pawtucket, R.I. native.
He intends to use the 2007-2008 season as extra motivation.
“I want to prove I can still play at a high level and be an asset to the team,” said Carney.
Carney set a milestone last February when he appeared in his 1,000th regular season game.
He was honored by the Wild and the league for his accomplishment.
Carney’s parents and three brothers flew in for the game in Minnesota.
“It was nice. It was a great honor. It’s an achievement I’m proud of,” said Carney, the father of 7-year-old triplet boys [Kade, Aidan, Cole] and 5½ and daughter Morgan.
Carney said if things don’t work out in Chicago, he will look to catch on with another NHL team.
He said he has no intention of playing in the AHL.
Carney has been pleased with the way things have gone so far in week one.
“I feel good about the way things have been going. I’m looking to get in the best shape possible and playing my best. If I do, everything will take care of itself,” said Carney.