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Chicago Blackhawks

Keith’s penalty draws scrutiny

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. – Duncan Keith’s violent high-sticking penalty against Los Angeles Kings forward Jeff Carter drew more than blood Sunday.

It drew a harsh response from Kings coach Darryl Sutter after his team beat the Hawks, 3-1, to trim their series deficit to 2-1 in the Western Conference finals.

“I didn’t think it was a four-minute penalty,” Sutter said. “Thought it was a wrong call.”

Hint, hint: Sutter was not campaigning for a shorter penalty for Keith.

Sutter explained why he thought the consequences should have been worse.

“Retaliation,” Sutter said. “That’s three head injuries now in the playoffs for us. I don’t know how to answer it. It’s retaliation with a stick. It’s not a high stick. Whatever they want to call it, they’ll call it. Don’t even need video.”

For his part, Keith said he did not intend to hit Carter in the face.

“I wanted to give him a tap, but not where I got him,” Keith said. “I’m glad to see that he came back.”

Keith offered a curt response when asked whether he thought the NHL might review the play.

“I don’t know,” Keith said. “I have no idea. I just said it was an accident.”

We meet again: Rarely do referee assignments make news in the NHL, playoffs or otherwise.

Then again, rarely do referees almost cost a team a Game 7 victory.

Referee Stephen Walkom worked Game 3 between the Hawks and Kings seven days after waving off Niklas Hjlamarsson’s go-ahead goal late in Game 7 against the Detroit Red Wings. On that sequence, Walkom ruled that play had stopped a moment before Hjalmarsson’s shot hit the back of the net.

Walkom worked Game 3 with fellow referee Eric Furlatt, while Shane Heyer and Brad Kovachik served as linesmen.

Big absence: The Hawks avoided Kings center Mike Richards for the second time in three games because of an upper-body injury that he suffered in the series opener on a hit by Dave Bolland.

Richards (5-10, 200 pounds) is one of the Kings’ smaller forwards, but he notched 32 points (12 G, 20 A) in 48 games during the regular season and 10 points (2 G, 8 A) in 14 playoff games before his injury.

“He’s not a big guy, but he plays good,” Hjalmarsson said. “He has a big heart, you can see that. He plays tough every shift. Great passer. Great shooter.

“Obviously, for us as defenseman, he’s one less threat out there on the ice. But they’ve got good players.”

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