After watching teammates scramble to fill in during a one-game suspension, Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith
is excited to get back in the lineup.
The Blackhawks will try to close out the Los Angeles Kings in Game 5 of the Western Conference Final on Saturday at United Center (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, RDS). With his team leading the best-of-7 series, 3-1, Keith said he's eager to rejoin the fray.
"I'm looking forward to the game and know it's going to be the biggest game of the series. I want to play a good hockey game," said Keith, who was suspended for one game after hitting Kings forward Jeff Carter in the face with his stick in Game 3. "It's tough to watch. When you're playing every game and then all of a sudden you're watching on TV, it's just a different feeling altogether. I couldn't really tell you, to be honest, if we were playing good or bad in the first period [of Game 4] or not … or what was going on."
According to Keith's teammates, he was plenty aware when the final horn sounded on Chicago's 3-2 win in Game 4. They claimed the Norris Trophy winner was bouncing around the locker room, giving out fist bumps and high fives.
"Well, I was happy," Keith said after Chicago's morning skate Saturday. "Obviously it was a huge win for the team. We played a great game."
This wasn't the first time Keith has been suspended. Last season, he received a five-game penalty from the NHL for an illegal hit to the head of Vancouver Canucks forward Daniel Sedin on March 21 at United Center.
"I don't feel good about having [a] 'repeat offender' [label], but it was a play that obviously you'd like to have back," Keith said of his retaliatory slash against Carter, which took place after the Kings forward's stick came close to striking Keith's bare hand in Game 3. "To me, it's over with now and I’m excited about the hockey game. I said at the time I didn't mean to get [Carter] where I got him. I know it doesn't look good but [I'm] glad that he's back playing for them, and it doesn't matter what my opinion on the decision suspending me was."
Carter wound up getting about 20 stitches and some dental work.
Keith's teammates made sure his absence didn't become more of a focal point. Had Los Angeles evened the series by winning Game 4 without Keith in the lineup, the suspension could have become an even hotter topic of discussion among media and fans. Now it's just a side note, regardless of which teams wins the series.
"I don't look at it like that," Keith said. "It's a seven-game series and we've got a strong group mentally in this room, and it's not something I think would be a focus point. It definitely feels good that we won. Now we'll move on to a big game [Saturday night]."