No Duncan Keith for the Blackhawks... Now what? - FOX 35 News Orlando

No Duncan Keith for the Blackhawks... Now what?

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

The Blackhawks are facing a bigger challenge without Duncan Keith for Game 4 as he serves a one game suspension. There isn't a single player that can replace Keith but Sheldon Brookbank will be in the lineup doing his best. Brookbank is a serviceable defenseman who saw action in 26 games this past season.

It's Brookbank's job to stay ready for times like this but he hasn't seen any game action since an April 27 start versus St. Louis. So Brookbank may surprise and play some effective minutes but he has to shake off a great deal of rust. Being thrown into the lineup at this time of the year when the intensity is dialed on high, will be a very difficult challenge for Brookbank.

Joel Quenneville will look to shield Brookbank from the tougher match-ups but that is more difficult on the road. The Kings will hunt Brookbank down when he is on the ice and look to pressure him as they figure he won't be adjusted to game speed. Brookbank will look to play a simple game as he can't afford to take many chances. The Hawks will be hoping Brookbank's play will be adequate.

Besides the suspension for Keith there are other concerns for the Blackhawks.

Niklas Hjalmarsson has been the most consistent defender besides Keith and he might not be at 100%. Hjalmarsson blocked a hard shot from Slava Voynov which struck him inside the left knee in Game 3. There isn't much protection where Hjalmarsson was hit and he was barely able to skate off the ice.

Hjalmarsson practiced on Wednesday and Quenneville will be hoping there are no lasting effects that would limit his minutes tonight. If Hjalmarsson is healthy he will be given a great deal of ice time as he is also heavily counted on to kill penalties.

Quenneville could go with more of a five man rotation tonight and ramp up the minutes for Nick Leddy and Michal Rozsival.

My thinking is Quenneville will pick his spots with Brookbank and hope the others can deal with an increased workload. Leddy has played fairly well in every game and Rozsival has been more a hit and miss. If these two are up to the task of an increased workload the chances of a Blackhawk victory without Keith increases.

A player who needs to improve tonight is Johnny Oduya, who also could be looked upon to play heavy minutes. Oduya has been inconsistent and was bailing out on some hits in Game 3 especially. Defensemen have to be able to withstand a pounding and still make accurate passes. Oduya looked tentative, his passing left much to be desired and that needs to improve otherwise he becomes a liability.

The Blackhawks offense starts with their defense and Brent Seabrook will play a big role in tonight's outcome. He will be used on the power play as well as the penalty kill and could see well over 25 minutes of playing time.

Seabrook may be paired with a combination of players and that won't make things easier on him. Seabrook can be a top defender in the league when at his best and Hawks will need a huge game from him.

Although the Blackhawks were basically only one goal short of forcing overtime in Game 3 they were outplayed. Los Angeles isn't a pretty team to watch but they know how to win. The problem they have is because they don't usually score much their margin for error is razor thin.

The Kings have played well without Mike Richards who is like their Jonathan Toews. In many ways it is more difficult to make up for the loss of a top defender than a forward, but with a better all around effort the Hawks could surprise LA tonight.

The main objective will be as always, to spend as little time in the defensive zone as possible. The Kings did just that in Game 3 and found a way to win. It will be more difficult for the Hawks to do the same tonight but that's what will be required to succeed without Keith.

My original feeling was Keith would receive only a fine not a suspension for swinging his stick and hitting Jeff Carter in the mouth.

If Keith wasn't a repeat offender my guess might have been accurate. Being correct when it comes to NHL rulings is more a matter of luck than anything else. In any event there really is not much of an argument to make Keith shouldn't have received a suspension.

Keith being suspended for delivering a vicious elbow to the jaw of Daniel Sedin in late March of 2012 makes him a repeat offender in the eyes of the NHL. Seeing that Keith only received a one game suspension his past history may have been the reason why he wasn't fined instead.

When NHL sheriff Brendan Shanahan looked at the video of Keith swinging his stick with one hand and striking Carter in the mouth he knew exactly what happened. Shanahan was a hardnosed player and he knew both Carter and Keith were wrong to some degree. In some ways Carter was the aggressor but that doesn't excuse Keith for hitting him near the mouth with his stick.

If you believe in some sort of code of honor between hockey players, Keith's action may have looked vicious but most likely wasn't intentional.

Sometimes when retaliating a player will hit another player with his stick but they are usually standing face to face. Shanahan most likely felt the same and thought Keith wasn't actually aiming for Carter's mouth. That consideration probably influenced the length of time Keith will be required to sit out.

In the world of NHL disciplinary action intent to injure does matter.

There are not many instances of a player skating behind and swinging a stick at someone's face, it just doesn't happen. Keith most likely meant to give Carter a shot to the upper arm and missed, that's why he was so apologetic afterwards. Some believe Keith was trying to plead his case immediately to try to avoid a suspension, but that is something hockey players seldom do as well.

Keith was careless and wasn't in control of his emotions so he got what he deserved. It will take a strong collective effort to bail him out tonight and come away with a victory.

I will be back tomorrow morning, and you can follow me on Twitter @AlCimaglia.

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