Chicago Blackhawks defenceman Duncan Keith was suspended for Game 4 of the Western Conference final for high-sticking Los Angeles Kings forward Jeff Carter in the face in Game 3 Tuesday.
"This is more serious than a case of a player simply having to be responsible for his stick," NHL senior vice president of player safety Brendan Shanahan said in announcing the suspension Wednesday. "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."
Keith played a team-high 26:47 in the Game 3 loss that cut Chicago's series lead to 2-1.
The 29-year-old — called "a repeat offender" by Shanahan — won't be available for Thursday's game at Staples Center in Los Angeles, forcing coach Joel Quenneville to make a change.
Asked earlier Wednesday what he would do if Keith were suspended, Quenneville didn't want to go there.
"Dunks is important in all areas," Quenneville said during his off-day press conference in Beverly Hills, Calif. "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 defenceman."
If Sheldon Brookbank gets the call to replace Keith, it would be his first game since April 27.
In the second period of Game 3, Carter slashed Keith on his glove-less hand behind the play. Keith retaliated by lifting his stick up on Carter. He was given a double-minor penalty and said after the game it was accidental.
"Although Keith asserts that he did not intend to hit Carter in the face or hit him with such force, he does admit to intentionally swinging his stick at Carter as Carter is skating away from him," Shanahan said. "It should also be noted that even if Carter did indeed chop down on top of Keith's hand, that still does not justify the extend of Keith's actions."
Carter returned soon after. Asked how Carter was doing the day after the incident, Kings coach Darryl Sutter said: "Awesome. I wish I was Jeff Carter today."
Carter led the Western Conference with 26 goals during the regular season. His mid-season arrival from Columbus last year was a factor in the Kings' improbable surge to their first Stanley Cup title.