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Duncan Keith suspended five games for hit on Daniel Sedin

Duncan Keith takes face shot from Alexandre Burrows during game against Canucks.  |  Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

Duncan Keith takes a face shot from Alexandre Burrows during the game against the Canucks. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: April 25, 2012 8:10AM

Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith’s regular season isn’t finished. The 2010 Norris Trophy winner still will have two games to regain his stride before the postseason.

But he’ll miss the next five because of the suspension handed to him by NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan on Friday for elbowing Vancouver Canucks star forward Daniel Sedin in the face on Wednesday.

Despite not having Jonathan Toews, the Hawks have surged up the standings to challenge the Nashville Predators and Detroit Red Wings for home ice in the first round of the playoffs. Keith’s strong play is a big reason. Now the Hawks will have to make due without one of the NHL’s best forwards and best blue-liners.

“Our depth right now is being taxed, but I like the way everybody has adapted and is helping out,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “Guys have stepped up and absorbed some important ice time and some leadership.”

Keith was handed the five-game ban after peculiar circumstances. His initial phone hearing was changed to an in-person hearing in New York, which he declined to attend. In-person hearings can result in lengthy suspensions.

He’ll forfeit $149,688.15 in salary, miss two key games against the Predators and can return April 5 against the Minnesota Wild.

Veteran Sean O’Donnell will take Keith’s place in the lineup. Steve Montador continues to skate as part of his recovery from a concussion and said he hopes to play before the season is over.

“I will go with the pace that I need to go,” Montador said.

The most debatable aspect Shanahan had to consider was whether Keith targeted Sedin after taking a shoulder-to-head hit from him earlier. Sedin is out with a concussion.

Keith declined to talk about Sedin’s hit on him Friday before his hearing, but it’s clear that it was a topic during it. Sedin was not penalized for the hit, but Keith received a two-minute minor for elbowing.

“Regardless of Keith’s assertion that the intent on this play was to impede Sedin’s progress as opposed to a retaliation for an earlier hit, Keith’s hit was still dangerous, reckless and caused injury,” Shanahan said in his video explanation. “We’ve also taken into consideration Keith’s supplemental discipline record, which includes no suspensions and one fine over nearly seven NHL seasons.”

Keith’s clean record, in other words, was a decisive factor.

“I feel like I’m a pretty stand-up player out on the ice,” Keith said before the hearing.

“It’s unfortunate Daniel got hurt [and] I don’t think that was Duncan’s intention,” forward Patrick Sharp said. “You never want to see guys go down, especially star players in the league. Daniel has been an elite player for many years and you hate to see a guy go out like that. People are going to listen to me say that and say I’m full of it, but you never want to see guys get hurt.”

It’s fair to say that Keith probably got caught up in the emotions of the tumultuous Hawks-Canucks rivalry. He called it a “heated rivalry” on Friday.

“Every game we see, whether it’s a playoff game against them or it’s a regular-season game, you’ve got to control your emotions,” Quenneville said. “You’ve got to make sure you think sometimes.

“But there are certain kinds of switches that are just reactionary -- the moment of the game, where it’s just a reactionary move. That’s something we’re going to always focus on going forward here, whether it’s Vancouver or anybody, we know we have to be smart.”

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