Duncan Keith said it was an accident. The NHL felt otherwise.
The league suspended Keith for Thursday night's Game 4 of the Western Conference final for his high-stick of Kings forward Jeff Carter. Keith admitted to trying to hit Carter as retaliation for a slash on his unprotected hand as he reached down to grab his glove in Game 3, but said he wasn't trying to hit him in the face. But Carter needed 21 stitches to close the cut Keith gave him, and had some dental damage.
"This is more serious than a case of a player simply having to be responsible for his stick," said NHL discipline czar Brendan Shanahan. "It is not an accidental high stick, nor is it a defensive high stick to an opponent. This is a retaliatory high stick to an opponent that causes an injury."
Added Shanahan: "Even if Carter did chop down on Keith's hand, that still does not justify the extent of Keith's actions."
The league also labeled Keith a "repeat offender," as he was suspended five games for an elbow to Vancouver forward Daniel Sedin's head last March.
Keith had a hearing over the phone to plead his case earlier in the day.
"It was just a normal hearing with Shanahan," Keith said before the ruling came out. "It is what it is now. Out of my control.
"We've had a hearing and I said my piece and said the same thing last night. It was an accident. I didn't mean to get him where I got him."
Earlier Wednesday morning, Carter said he had moved on from the incident, and that the Kings weren't worried about the potential ruling.
''We were battling in front of the net, up the ice and ... uh, I think I took a swing at his glove there when he was trying to pick it up,'' Carter said. ''I was in front of him. The next thing I knew, I was getting a stick to the face. ... Obviously if he does get suspended it's a huge loss for their team. He's a big part of their team."
Without Keith, Sheldon Brookbank will play for the first time since the season finale on April 27 at St. Louis.
"I guess it's kind of like you're on call," Brookbank said earlier in the day. "You've got to stay ready and wait to hear the word if you're needed or not. I've been trying to say with it all playoffs anyways. Stay prepared. It's tough. It's not the ideal situation, but at the same point, that's why you have extra players. If you're going to go on a run, at some point guys are going to be needed."