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Blackhawks' Keith says he understands suspension

Chicago defenseman apologized to Wild's Coyle after high-stick that led to six-game ban

by Brian Hedger / Correspondent

CHICAGO -- Duncan Keith skated during the Chicago Blackhawks' optional practice Saturday and talked for the first time about a six-game suspension that will force him to miss Chicago's first game in the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Keith, who was suspended for high-sticking Minnesota Wild forward Charlie Coyle at Xcel Energy Center on March 29, said he is disappointed to miss a playoff game but understands why the suspension was assessed.

"At the end of the day, it's a fast game and it was obviously a reaction, and one that I need to be disciplined [for]," Keith said. "We talked about that as a team and things like that. Obviously, I think there's a limit there and I've got to know that. I will [going forward]."

The penalty occurred at 9:27 of the first period in Minnesota's 4-1 win, which was the Wild's fifth straight against the Blackhawks this season. After Coyle knocked Keith to the ice, Keith swung his stick and hit Coyle in the face. Keith was assessed a match penalty for high-sticking, and Coyle left briefly but finished the game.

"I talked to him, apologized," Keith said. "I called and left a message, and he called me back, so I was appreciative of that. It says a lot about the player and type of guy he is. That's about it. They've got a good team and they're playing well. I wished him the best [afterward]."

Keith, the 2015 Conn Smythe Trophy winner, served the first game of the suspension in the Blackhawks' 5-4 overtime win at the Winnipeg Jets on Friday. The defenseman will miss the last four games of the regular season, including a game against the Boston Bruins on Sunday (12:30 p.m. ET; NBC, TVA Sports, SN).

The suspension is the third of Keith's NHL career. He was suspended five games in 2012 for elbowing Vancouver Canucks forward Daniel Sedin. He was suspended one game for high-sticking Los Angeles Kings forward Jeff Carter in Game 4 of the 2013 Western Conference Final.

"It's a dangerous play, and I was glad to see [Coyle] came back and it wasn't worse," Keith said. "I try to play the game hard ... at the end of the day, I try to leave it on the ice. I'm not really focused on what I'm trying to leave out there, as far as a reputation. I think everybody wants to have a reputation as a clean, honest player. There's a line and a limit. It's just being smarter and knowing that."

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