Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith claims his high-stick to the face of Los Angeles Kings center Jeff Carter on Tuesday night was a mistake. Keith says the stitches Carter received were an unintentional consequence of an unfortunate, accidental stick placement and that he never meant to hurt his opponent.
It seems the NHL isn't buying it.
According to ESPN's John Buccigross, the NHL has suspended Keith for Thursday night's critical Game 4 clash:
The NHL confirmed the suspension on its official website, as the league's department of player safety deemed Keith's actions to be a malicious, retaliatory attack on an opponent.
The NHL released its explanation of the decision as well, in a video that was released on the official website (embedded below).
Keith was informed of this decision after appearing at a disciplinary hearing on Wednesday. USA Today's Mike Brehm noted earlier in the day that Keith was scheduled to appear before the committee.
The controversy stems from Keith's actions midway through the second period of Tuesday night's Game 3 of the Western Conference Final. After engaging each other in a shoving match down below the goal—standard NHL stuff—Carter placed his stick on Keith's glove as he went skating by during a stoppage in play.
Retaliating in response to Carter's measure of disrespect, Keith swung his stick hard at the Kings center, striking him in the face. As Arash Markazi of ESPN noted, Carter needed 20 stitches to repair the laceration on his face and had multiple teeth chipped as a result of Keith's high-sticking.
Keith, for his part, received a four-minute double-minor.
After the game, Keith completely denied that the penalty was a malicious act. As noted in Brehm's report, Keith acknowledged that he wanted to "tap" Carter and the end result was not his intention.
"It was accidental," Keith said. "Obviously, I wanted to give him a tap, but not where I got him. I felt bad. I'm glad to see that he came back. It was just a scuffle."
Keith maintained that it was an accident following his hearing as well, per an ESPN news report:
I'm not getting into it. It's over with now. We've had a hearing. I've said my piece. I said the same thing last night. It was an accident. I didn't mean to get him where I got him. It is what it is, though.
With the NHL obviously feeling differently, Chicago will now have to navigate Game 4 without one of its best players.
The Blackhawks head into Thursday night's clash with a 2-1 series lead.