For those who have not seen the incident here is what went down in last night’s Blackhawks 4-1 loss to the Wild:
Keith was given a five-minute match penalty for the slash, which comes with an automatic ejection from the game and a one-game suspension minimum. During last night’s game after Keith had exited the contest, it was announced that Keith would be suspended indefinitely until the NHL reviewed the incident. This afternoon, the NHL announced that Keith would have the opportunity to have an in-person meeting regarding his possible suspension.
Keith could miss Playoff games
With the Department of Player Safety offering Keith an in-person meeting, that most likely means that he could face the possibility of a five or more game-suspension. Usually the NHL saves the in-person meetings for incidents that result in 5 or more game suspensions, otherwise player safety hearings would be done over the phone to speed up the process.
The problem working the most against Keith is his history of incidents. Not usually thought of as a ‘dirty’ player, this is not Keith’s first offense of slashing and opponent in the face. During the 2013 Western Conference Final against the Los Angeles Kings, Keith was suspended one game for slashing King’s Forward Jeff Carter across the face. Keith also missed time in 2012 when he was suspended five games for elbowing Vancouver Canucks Forward Daniel Sedin. The ‘repeat offender’ tag is going to follow Keith for the rest of his NHL career, should any other incidents happen, and works against him heading into his hearing.
One thing that helps Keith’s case is that Coyle was able to return to the game and doesn’t look like he will miss any more time following the slash.
“No matter what happens in a game you shouldn’t swing your stick at someone’s face,” Coyle said, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, adding, “I’m sure he wants to take that back. Heat of the moment thing. That’s how it happened.”
The NHL probably won’t be as forgiving.
With the Blackhawks in the midst of a struggle down the stretch of the season. Already missing starting goalie Corey Crawford and failing to find consistency against potential Playoff teams, the loss of Keith would be quite the blow. The Blackhawks only have five games remaining in the regular season, and if the NHL Department of Player Safety hands down a hammer-blow to Keith, the Blackhawks could be without arguably their most important player for significant time in the first-round.
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