Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith has been suspended for six games by the NHL for his slash against Minnesota Wild forward Charlie Coyle, the league’s Department of Player Safety announced Friday.
The ban will leave the Blackhawks even more short-handed than usual on their blue line, as they continue to deal with ineffective play and injuries with the playoffs looming.
The suspension is the third of Keith’s career. He was suspended for five games in 2011 after elbowing Vancouver Canucks forward Daniel Sedin in the side of the head, and he received a one-game playoff ban for a retaliatory high stick against Los Angeles Kings forward Jeff Carter during the 2013 postseason.
That second hit perhaps played a role in the league’s decision to suspend Keith this time. Much like the Carter infraction, the Coyle hit came after Keith was hit by an opponent. Keith was upended by Coyle in the offensive zone, and as he rolled over on the ice he reached up and slashed his stick across the forward’s face, opening up a gash on the bridge of his nose that required the attention of trainers.
Keith was assessed a 10-minute match penalty for the play, which carried with it an automatic ejection from the contest and a suspension for the Blackhawks’ game Friday night against the Winnipeg Jets.
After the hit, Keith was offered an in-person hearing by DOPS, meaning that the league had the option to suspend him for six or more games. To expedite the process, Keith opted for a phone hearing instead, which took place on Friday afternoon according to the league.
With Keith out of the lineup, the Blackhawks’ defense will have to rely even more heavily on Brent Seabrook and Niklas Hjalmarsson than usual. The team will also have to skate youngsters like Erik Gustafsson and Viktor Svedberg more often, and Christian Ehrhoff could see more playing time as one of the few veterans available to Joel Quenneville and his coaching staff.