For the Chicago Blackhawks, losing defenseman Duncan Keith for a playoff game would be somewhat comparable to the Kings without defenseman Drew Doughty.
On Wednesday, the NHL suspended Keith for Game 4 of the Western Conference finals for high-sticking Kings center Jeff Carter in Game 3. Game 4 is Thursday night at Staples Center.
Keith, a repeat offender, had a telephone hearing Wednesday morning with the league's department of player safety regarding the incident. He practiced with his teammates in the afternoon and word of the one-game suspension came down later.
"It's out of my control now. ... It's over with now. I mean, we've had a hearing," Keith said before the decision. "I said my piece. I said the same thing last night. It was an accident to hit him where I got him."
His absence will be a major issue for Chicago, which leads the series, 2-1. Like Doughty, Keith leads the Blackhawks in minutes played, has 10 points in the playoffs and plays in all situations. His previous suspension, a five-game ban for elbowing the Vancouver Canucks' Daniel Sedin in the head last year, did not help his cause with the league.
The incident occurred in the second period and Keith received a double-minor for high-sticking. Carter left the game, briefly. He required 20 stitches and there was some dental damage.
"It is not an accidental high stick. Nor is it a defensive high stick to an opponent," Brendan Shanahan, the NHL's chief disciplinarian, said in a video explanation. "This is a retaliatory high stick to an opponent that causes an injury."
Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford suggested that the media should examine Carter's role, saying, "[Carter] took a couple shots at him. Obviously, you can't hit a guy in the face, but [there were] some pretty vicious slashes right before that."
It would appear that Sheldon Brookbank could possibly be the one to take Keith's spot in the lineup.
"For sure, I'm ready," Brookbank said. "I had another stretch in my career one time where I didn't play for a while too. I feel like I'm ready to go. It's not easy staying with it, staying ready.
"It's part of the job. It's one of the reasons they brought me here."