Duncan Keith said he apologized to Charlie Coyle for his high-sticking and will not appeal the six-game suspension given to him by the NHL Department of Player Safety.
Keith, who talked after Saturday’s practice, said he accepts the league’s decision and will prep for Game 2 of the postseason, the first game in which he is eligible to return. He wouldn’t specifically talk about the discussion he had with the department.
“That conversation stays in there and at the end of the day, it’s a fast game and it was obviously a reaction and one that I need to be disciplined,” Keith said. “We talked about that as a team and things like that. Obviously I think there’s a limit there and I gotta know that. I will.”
It’s the third time Keith has been suspended in his NHL career and the second time for a high-stick. The league referred to his previous high-stick, one on Jeff Carter that cost Keith a game in the 2013 Western Conference Final, when suspending him for this one on Coyle.
As for his game moving forward, Keith said, “it’s just being smarter and knowing that.”
“At the end of the day, I try to leave it on the ice. I’m not really focused on what I’m trying to leave out there as far as a reputation,” Keith said. “I think everybody wants to have a reputation as a clean, honest player. There’s a line and a limit.”
Keith received a match penalty for intent to injure after swinging his stick at Coyle in the first period of Tuesday night’s game against the Minnesota Wild. Keith said he talked to Coyle and apologized.
“I called and left a message and he called me back, so I was appreciative of that. It shows a lot on his part and the type of guy he is too,” Keith said. “They’ve got a good team and they’re playing well. I wished him the best after.”
Keith said he was glad to see Coyle quickly return from his “dangerous play.”
“I was just happy that he was able to come back and play and finish the game and it wasn’t worse.”
While Keith preps during his suspension — suspended players are permitted to practice — the Blackhawks will continue on without him. Coach Joel Quenneville said the young defensemen getting a chance during Keith’s absence have to make the most of the opportunity, but should not try to be something they aren’t.
“We don’t expect them to be Duncan Keiths. We expect them to take advantage of an opportunity,” Quenneville said. “Play your game, play to your strengths and within the team structure and you can help us that way.”
Keith will take his punishment. The Blackhawks will make do in his absence, spreading Keith’s minutes and responsibilities around the lineup. When he returns, Keith said he’ll be ready.
“Obviously you don’t want to put the team in that situation. That’s the tough part. But I know we’ve got a lot of great defensemen and we’ve got a good team in here. Whether it was missing guys, forwards, defensemen, goalies who’ve been out, guys pick up the slack,” Keith said. “Whoever we play in playoffs, it’s going to be a tough series and it’s going to be — every game’s going to be hard-fought. I’ll be excited to come back for Game 2.”