LOS ANGELES – As if a physical opponent and a hostile crowd were not enough, the Blackhawks will have to find a way to win Game 4 against the Los Angeles Kings without their top defenseman.
The NHL announced Wednesday that it had suspended Hawks defenseman Duncan Keith for one game because of his high stick to the face of Kings forward Jeff Carter in Tuesday’s Game 3 of the Western Conference finals. Keith had a hearing with league representatives Wednesday morning and practiced with his teammates before the suspension was announced.
The hit bloodied Carter’s face and required 20 stitches to repair.
“This is more serious than a player simply having to be responsible for his stick,” said Brendan Shanahan, who announced the penalty as the league’s senior vice president of player safety. “It is not an accidental high stick, nor is it a defensive high stick to an opponent. This is a retaliatory high stick to an opponent that causes an injury.”
Minus Keith, the Hawks likely will activate defenseman Sheldon Brookbank for the first time this postseason. Meanwhile, top remaining defensemen Brent Seabrook, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Nick Leddy and Johnny Oduya could receive extra ice time to try to fill Keith’s void.
Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said Keith’s value to the team extended beyond one category.
“ ‘Duncs’ is important in all areas,” Quenneville said. “We talk about special teams, you talk about big minutes, you talk about how we defend, get activated on the back end.
“His leadership, his compete level, he’s everything you want in a defenseman. He’s very important.”
Black and blue: Niklas Hjalmarsson practiced with his teammates and said he felt fine one day after he appeared to block a shot with the side of his left knee.
Hjalmarsson remained down on the ice for several seconds in Game 3 before limping to the bench, where he hunched forward in obvious pain while trainers checked his status.
Hawks forward Viktor Stalberg knew better than to ask Hjalmarsson how he was feeling.
“When he’s down, you know it is going to be pretty painful,” Stalberg said. “When he came to the bench, I was sitting next to him for a while, but I didn’t want to say anything because it looked like he was in a lot of pain.”
To the point: Hawks captain Jonathan Toews has gone five games without scoring a goal, but his all-around contributions have impressed Quenneville during the series.
“Johnny is such a competitor,” Quenneville said. “He complements our team game the way you hope. But at the same time, offensively, it would be nice to see a little bit more finish.”
Toews has one assist in three games against the Kings and seven points in the playoffs.