USATSI_9218013_154158418_lowresThe National Hockey League has suspended Chicago Blackhawks defenceman Duncan Keith for six games following a stick-swinging incident involving Minnesota Wild forward Charlie Coyle.

Keith received a match penalty midway through the first period of his team’s 4-1 loss to the Wild on Tuesday and was offered an in-person hearing by the league. He decided to have the hearing over the phone instead.

The suspension means Keith will miss the remainder of the regular season and one playoff game.

The punishment is significant for a number of reasons, with that playoff game really standing out. The league’s Department of Player Safety is typically reluctant to bench someone for a post-season contest, as most around the NHL still operate on the kind of math that one playoff game is equivalent to two regular season games.

But Keith is a repeat offender, having faced suspension twice before this.

Prior to this ban, the 32-year-old from Winnipeg was suspended for elbowing Daniel Sedin in March of 2012 and high-sticking Jeff Carter in June of 2013. The latter incident looks eerily similar to the one-handed whack he delivered to Coyle.

There are some who argued Coyle delivered a high stick to Keith prior to the incident, but the NHL’s disciplinary body was having none of it. There was nothing to justify what the blueliner did to Coyle in this instance. It was not a “hockey play.” And so on.

The NHLPA and Keith can appeal this suspension given that it’s over the bubble, but the league’s handling of the Dennis Wideman appeal may give some pause. It may be better for Keith to quietly take his lumps.

After all, he earned it.

Keith was in control of his stick during the play and it’s hard to target his actions as anything apart from purposeful. He knew what he was doing when he left Coyle bloody.

The Blackhawks won’t exactly be troubled by this suspension until the playoffs hit, so it’s hard to imagine much grousing from their side. They can coast into the post-season without their top blueliner and prepare to get it together when he returns.

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