EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Jeff Carter hasn't opened his mouth much publicly during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and when he did Wednesday it wasn't pretty.
Visually speaking, the Los Angeles Kings forward had a cut on his chin and a bottom tooth was missing, although that had nothing to do with a high stick he received from Duncan Keith of the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 3 of the Western Conference Final.
"I had a tough practice in Chicago," Carter said. "My bridge fell out, so those were already gone, but I chipped the one tooth and cracked a couple on the bottom but I didn't actually lose any" from the Keith incident.
Carter said he received about 20 stitches to close the cut and was a little sore, but otherwise was feeling all right. A 3-1 win that pulled the Los Angeles Kings within 2-1 in the best-of-7 series went a long way toward healing the injuries. As expected, Carter wouldn't comment on what he thought of Keith's play but he did go over it for the first time.
With 12 minutes remaining in the third period, Keith and Carter exchanged shoves near Chicago's net as the play moved into L.A.'s zone. A bare-handed Keith reached to pick up his glove and Carter whacked at Keith's hand before Keith responded with a stick blade to Carter's face.
"We were battling in front of the net up the ice," Carter said. "I took a swing at his glove there as he tried to pick it up. I was in front of him and next thing I was getting a stick to the face."
Kings defenseman Matt Greene spoke to one of the referees, either Stephen Walkom or Eric Furlatt.
"He said that it's a judgment call on whether intent to injury and he didn't think it was," Greene said. "So it's a four-minute penalty. And that's it."
Keith went to see if Carter was OK and appeared regretful. If he tried to give an apology, Carter had a response.
"The video said that I blew him off but if you watched, I said something back to him," Carter said.
Keith was suspended one game by the NHL Department of Player Safety on Wednesday. Prior to the decision, it did not concern Carter.
"It's up to [NHL Senior Vice President of Player Safety] Brendan [Shanahan]," Carter said. "Whatever he thinks ... is right, is what's going to happen. Obviously if he does get suspended it's a huge loss for their team. He's a big part of their team. There's nothing we can do about it."
That Carter spoke to the media is almost newsworthy in itself. Prior to Wednesday, the Kings' second-leading playoff scorer spoke to reporters twice in the postseason (once during the conference quarterfinals and once during conference semifinals). That is largely because Carter is almost never in the dressing room when reporters are permitted inside and has not been available when requested.
Carter is certainly speaking loudly with his play. His first period of Game 3 was arguably the best of his playoffs. He had tremendous jump and the puck was flying off his stick, although it wasn't always on net.
It was a welcome uptick for the Kings. They need timely scoring from Carter, who has three goals in his past 10 games, an empty-net goal in the series against the San Jose Sharks and a rather meaningless score in a 4-2 loss to Chicago in Game 2.
With Mike Richards out with a concussion, Carter moved back to his natural center position in between Dustin Penner and rookie Tyler Toffoli. Carter likely will remain there if Richards is unavailable for Game 4 on Thursday (9 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS).
"It's been fine," Carter said of the adjustment. "Obviously going back to center is something that I'm familiar with and very comfortable playing in the middle. I think it gives me a little more free rein, if you will. A few more options, offensively, and sort of going up and down the wall. But I think with the way that Dustin and Tyler have been playing the last few games as well has made it pretty easy for myself and pretty easy for our line to get things going."
As far as the aftermath from the Keith play, Carter and his teammates said retaliation won't do them much good. Greene said the play bothered them but it doesn't change the fact they face a series deficit and scored two goals with an empty-netter even though they clearly got under Chicago's skin in Game 3.
"You're upset, obviously," Greene said. "But I think you've got to play within the rules. You've got to play a hard game. Our whole mentality is to play a physical, grinding game, to be hard on their skill guys, and that's our game plan. Everyone knows that. You've got to do it within the rules, and if you're going to let that get to your head or try to answer back with something that's illegal, then you're going to hurt your team. So you can't do that. You've got to worry about playing our game, and doing what we can to get wins here."
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