Blackhawks

Duncan Keith suspended six games, will miss first postseason game

duncan-keith-1126.png

Duncan Keith suspended six games, will miss first postseason game

Duncan Keith was suspended six games by the Department of Player Safety on Friday for high-sticking Charlie Coyle in the Blackhawks’ 4-1 loss to the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday night.

The defenseman will miss the Blackhawks’ final five regular-season games — including Friday’s game at Winnipeg — as well as their first two postseason games. He’s eligible to return in Game 2 of the first round.

[MORE: How will Blackhawks make up for Duncan Keith's absence?]

In their video explanation of the suspension, the department said:

“As Keith pivots to play the puck, Coyle works to establish body position with his free hand. During this, Coyle’s stick gets entangled with a teammate’s skates. The combination of a shove and the entangled stick causes Keith to lose his balance and fall to the ice. While on his back, Keith looks at Coyle, winds his armback then slashes his stick dangerously and violently directly into the face of Coyle. It’s important to note that Keith is in perfect control of his stick at all times, and this motion is made intentionally, not recklessly.

“This is not a case where two players are battling for position or puck control and a stick rides up suddenly,” the explanation continued. “This is not a defensive high stick. It is also not a case in which a player that is off balance recklessly swings his stick in an uncontrolled manner with an unexpected result. Keith looks directly at his opponent winds his arm back and then whips [the stick] forward in a chopping motion aimed at Coyle’s face.”

The video further explained that, even if Coyle had intentionally tripped Keith “it would not excuse a response of this kind.” The department compared this high stick to the one Keith had on Jeff Carter in the 2013 Western Conference final, for which he was suspended a game – “This is an intentional and retaliatory act of violence by a player with a history of using his stick as a weapon.”

Keith, who waived his in-person hearing, had his phone hearing with the department this afternoon. It’s the third suspension of Keith’s NHL career. Keith forfeits $148,883.35 in salary that goes to the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund.

Blackhawks assign Anton Forsberg to Rockford after clearing waivers

Blackhawks assign Anton Forsberg to Rockford after clearing waivers

Anton Forsberg cleared waivers on Tuesday morning and was assigned to the Rockford IceHogs in the American Hockey League.

That's good news for the Blackhawks organizational depth chart, with Forsberg as the No. 3 in goal. But it also complicates things in Rockford, where Collin Delia and Kevin Lankinen have been sharing the duties.

Delia is 3-1-0 with a 3.26 goals against average and .910 save percentage while Lankinen is 0-1-1 with a 3.39 GAA and .825 save percentage. Perhaps the most likely scenario is Lankinen gets sent to the ECHL with the Indy Fuel while Delia and Forsberg split the load in Rockford.

It's certainly a good problem to have, but it's still unclear how that dynamic will play out.

"We haven’t talked about that," coach Joel Quenneville said. "But we expect [Forsberg] to play."

Luke Johnson recalled

With a spot opening up on the 23-man roster, Johnson is being brought back up after he was squeezed out by Corey Crawford's return. He had a goal and an assist in two games with Rockford.

Brandon Saad returns to top-six role

After turning in arguably his best performance of the season on Sunday, Saad is back playing on the second line with Artem Anisimov and Patrick Kane. He had seven shot attempts (three on goal) against Tampa Bay and led the team in 5-on-5 possession numbers.

"[Saad] is coming off a game where we liked what we saw," Quenneville said. "Playing with Kaner can help him get going."

Nick Schmaltz to play right side for first time in NHL career

Eight games into the season and Schmaltz has spent time at both center and left wing. Now he'll get a look on the right side with Alexandre Fortin on the left and David Kampf centering the third line.

Part of the reason for Schmaltz’s move to the right side was because Quenneville said they like Fortin on the left. It's not unfamiliar territory for Schmaltz, but could take some time getting used to.

"I played a little while back, not sure when," Schmaltz said "Just a little bit different. Catching pucks on your forehand now instead of your backhand. It's not a huge adjustment, just play with speed and compete hard and hopefully the skill on our line will take over."

Evaluating Blackhawks options after Anton Forsberg is placed on waivers

9-20_anton_forsberg_ap.jpg
AP

Evaluating Blackhawks options after Anton Forsberg is placed on waivers

The Blackhawks have said all along that they don't plan on carrying three goaltenders, but wanted to do so during the three games in four days stretch just in case, with Corey Crawford coming back from a 10-month layoff because of a concussion.

After being encouraged by how Crawford has responded to his return, the Blackhawks placed goaltender Anton Forsberg on waivers Monday morning. Teams have 24 hours to put in a claim for the 25-year-old goaltender and would have to keep him on their NHL roster for 10 games and/or 30 days before he's eligible to go through the waiver process again.

His chances of getting claimed by any of the other 30 teams essentially depends on which teams believe Forsberg would be an immediate upgrade over their current backup — or starter, for that matter — or whether there's an injury to one of the team's two goaltenders that requires a placeholder, like we saw the Carolina Hurricanes do by claiming Curtis McElhinney from the Toronto Maple Leafs after Scott Darling's injury in the preseason.

If Forsberg goes unclaimed, the Blackhawks can assign him to the American Hockey League with the Rockford IceHogs. With Collin Delia and Kevin Lankinen sharing the goaltending duties in Rockford, it's possible Lankinen gets sent to the Indy Fuel in the ECHL to get consistent starts under his belt.

A third option, one that isn't very common but we've seen in the past as recently as last October with Maple Leafs goaltender Kasimir Kaskisuo, is that Forsberg can be loaned to any AHL team while still being a part of the Blackhawks organization. This would allow the Blackhawks to keep Delia and Lankinen in Rockford while Forsberg gets his starts in the AHL, too.

Or, the Blackhawks could simply trade Forsberg to another NHL team that could stash him in the AHL, as long as he clears waivers. They did it last season with Chris DiDomenico, who cleared waivers as a member of the Ottawa Senators but was then traded to Chicago for Ville Pokka days later. Had DiDomenico been claimed by the Blackhawks, he would have had to stay on the NHL roster as noted above.

Forsberg was 10-16-4 with a 2.97 goals against average and .908 save percentage in 35 appearances last season but has not appeared in a game yet this year. He was acquired as part of the Brandon Saad package for Artemi Panarin in June 2017.