EL SEGUNDO, CA — Let’s just say that the aftermath wasn’t pretty.
On the play, after Carter appeared to chop at Keith’s glove, which was down on the ice, as Keith was picking it up—Carter’s stick blade may have contacted Keith’s hand—Keith immediately responded by swinging his stick, with the blade striking Carter squarely in the mouth.
“We were battling in front of the net, up the ice,” said Carter. “I think I took a swing at his glove there, he was trying to pick it up. I was in front of him. Next thing I knew, I was getting a stick to the face.”
“Obviously, I wanted to give him a tap, but not where it got him,” said Keith. “I feel bad. I’m glad to see that he came back. It was an accident.”
After the game, Kings head coach Darryl Sutter, who was visibly disturbed by the incident, including the officiating, said it was no accident.
“I didn’t think it was a four-minute penalty,” he lamented. “That’s the wrong call. It was retaliation. That’s three head injuries in the playoffs, now, for us. I don’t know how to answer it. It’s retaliation with a stick. It’s not a high stick.”
The general sentiment among Kings players after the game was rather muted, with the players who spoke with Frozen Royalty indicating that they did not believe that Keith intended to high stick Carter in the face or head.
“I don’t think he meant to do it the way he did it,” said center Jarret Stoll. “I don’t think he meant to slash him in the face.”
“It’s certainly not a play you want to see, but if he really wanted to whack him, he probably could’ve taken two hands and done something else,” said defenseman Rob Scuderi.
“Obviously it was a dirty play, but I’m not sure that Keith meant to do it that hard,” said right wing Justin Williams. “Looked like he wanted to go make sure he was OK after. I think it was more of an instinct thing. But I don’t think it was a malicious intent? No.”
Facing the media during an off day for the Kings on Wednesday, Carter had swollen lips, and a visible cut on his chin—clear evidence of the carving job done by Keith and his stick blade.
“[I’m] feeling all right,” said Carter. “You know, a little sore. I had a bunch of cuts inside, and one outside that you could see. Got a bunch of stitches.”
Twenty or 21 stitches, to be more specific.
Carter was also missing at least a couple of front teeth when he spoke to the media on June 5, at the Kings’ practice facility. But those were already missing prior to Keith’s high stick.
“Those were already gone,” he noted. “I had a tough practice in Chicago [when] my bridge fell out.”
The high stick by Keith did add to the dental work Carter has already undergone, however.
“I chipped one tooth, cracked a couple on the bottom, but didn’t actually lose any,” Carter said.
By the time they met with the media on Wednesday, Kings players had already moved on.
“It is what it is,” Carter noted. “It’s over with, it’s done with. We’ve got a pretty big game tomorrow to worry about. I’m not too worried about the incident.”
“You can’t dwell on it,” said defenseman Matt Greene. “We’re here to win games, not worry about what happened in the past, or what got called. Our focus has to be [on] Game 4.”
Like his team, Sutter’s focus was also on the task at hand.
“I moved on right after the game,” said Sutter. “I [expressed] my feelings on it, and I think I’m correct, and that’s it. But after that, it doesn’t matter, and to be quite honest, it never has.”
When asked if he thought Keith deserved to be suspended or fined, Carter did not bite.
“That’s up to [National Hockey League Senior Vice President of Player Safety] Brendan [Shanahan],” said Carter. “Whatever he thinks is right is what’s going to happen.”
“If he does get suspended, it’s a huge loss for their team,” added Carter. “He’s a big part of their team. There’s nothing we can do about it. We’ve just got to get ready to play.”
Keith, who had a telephone hearing early on Wednesday with Shanahan regarding the incident, maintained that the whole thing was an accident.
“It’s over with now, we had a hearing, said my piece,” he said. “I said the same thing [Tuesday] night, [that] it was an accident. I didn’t mean to get him where I got him. It is what it is now.”
“This is more serious than a case of a player simply having to be responsible for his stick,” Shanahan emphasized. “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.”
“Although Keith asserts that he did not intend to hit Carter in the face, or hit him with such force, he does admit to intentionally swinging his stick at Carter, as Carter is skating away from him,” Shanahan added.
Shanahan also quashed the notion that Carter’s actions just prior to Keith’s high stick somehow justified Keith’s retaliation.
“It should also be noted that even if Carter did chop down on Keith’s hand, that still does not justify the extent of Keith’s actions,” said Shanahan.
The Blackhawks will now have to do without their top defenseman in Game 4 (tonight, 6:00 PM PDT, Staples Center).
“Dunks is important in all areas,” said Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville. “We talk about special teams, you talk about big minutes, you talk about how we defend, get activated on the back end. His leadership, his compete level. He’s everything you want in a defenseman. He’s very important.”
The Kings insisted that even if the league had not taken action against Keith, retaliation was not something they were considering.
“It’s not a time to go out and retaliate, and take dumb penalties,” said Carter. “You do that, your season’s going to be over pretty quick, especially against a team like Chicago—highly skilled forwards, and they can put the puck in the net.”
“You’ve got to do it within the rules,” Greene stressed. “If you’re going to let that get to your head, and try to answer back with something that’s illegal, you’re going to hurt your team, so you can’t do that. We’ve got to be worried about playing our game, and doing what we can to get wins.”
“You’re upset, but you have 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 skilled guys, and that’s our game plan. Everyone knows that.”
It has been quite awhile since Frozen Royalty has had an installment of “Sutter-isms,” but Sutter gave the media some “Sutter Gold” on Wednesday.
When asked about Carter’s condition Sutter exclaimed, “He’s awesome! I wish I was Jeff Carter today.”
NHL Network Report on Keith/Carter Incident – NHL Player Safety Ruling via KingsVision on YouTube
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