Keith could be NHL's top defender

LAS VEGAS -- He has a new set of teeth, now Duncan Keith is looking for something he can put on his mantle instead of his mouth: a Norris Trophy.

Keith and other nominees descended on Las Vegas on Tuesday in advance of Wednesday's NHL awards banquet.

"It was a long year and our team had some success and it was fun to be a part of [it]," Keith said Tuesday afternoon. "It would definitely be pretty special to win this award for sure."

If he does, he'll be able to flash a relaxed smile when he accepts now that he's seen the team dentist. Keith had seven teeth knocked out in a playoff game on May 24. It wasn't until last week that he was able to replace them.

"They're all plastic and just temporary until training camp," Keith explained. "That day I was in the chair for 6 or 7 hours. It was a long time to be in the chair for sure."

Keith and several other teammates who are in Las Vegas with him are prepared for the inevitable when it comes to their championship team. Within hours or days the Hawks will be shipping players out to make room under the salary cap. Some of the payroll the team sheds is needed to get Keith a handsome raise.

"You get asked that question throughout the year but now it's come right up to that point where it is time because of our cap situation," Keith said. "We probably could have been together for a long time."

Keith is up against stiff competition for the Norris award, given out to the best defenseman in the league. Mike Green, of Washington, had 76 points and was plus-39 for the year but is considered a purely offensive defenseman. The stiffer competition might come from 20-year-old do-it-all Kings blueliner Drew Doughty.

"When I was 20 I was in the minors," Keith said. "He's obviously well ahead of his age. Getting to play with him in the Olympics was great. He is going to have a great career."

Keith said either way, it's been a great year, especially the last 14 days, since his team won the Stanley Cup.

"I can't even remember the last two weeks," Keith said. "A lot of fun and craziness."

Jesse Rogers covers the Blackhawks for ESPNChicago.com