Keith's hit fuels Hawks-Canucks rivalry

CHICAGO -- Add another nasty chapter to the rivalry between the Chicago Blackhawks and Vancouver Canucks. The Hawks’ 2-1 overtime victory on Wednesday kept Chicago moving in the right direction, but it takes a back seat to the looming punishment awaiting defenseman Duncan Keith.

Keith’s hit on Daniel Sedin in the first period is certain to bench the Hawks’ defenseman for at least a game. There is no question it was illegal as evidenced by the minor penalty invoked. The league will decide the punishment on Friday -- in a 1 pm CST conference call with Keith, his agent and general manager Stan Bowman. The fact that Sedin is missing Thursday’s game against Dallas as he returns to Vancouver for further testing is certain to work against Keith.

The fact that the hearing is by phone means the suspension can’t be longer than five games – if it were to extend beyond that mark, it would require an in-person hearing with the league instead of a phone call.

The NHL takes into account injury impact of a play . So if Sedin has a concussion, the league’s discipline czar, Brendan Shanahan, will use that in determining the length of a possible suspension. But the severity of the concussion probably won’t play a part, just the fact he has one -- or at least that he’s missing a game. With only one day for the Canucks to assess Sedin’s condition, Shanahan probably won’t know the full extent of the injury when he makes a decision.

The bottom line is Keith is a first-time offender who delivered a blow to the head as the principal point of contact. It means a suspension of 1-3 games, more likely on the heavier side than the lighter one.

Will the league take into account Sedin’s high hit on Keith a few minutes earlier? It might actually work against Keith.

The league already has a mechanism in addressing Sedin’s hit, they could review it just as they are Keith. But they won’t give Keith a pass because he or others may believe Sedin had it coming. It doesn’t work that way. They may actually view Keith’s hit as intentional retribution, further adding to the evidence against the Hawks’ defenseman.

Sedin’s hit on Keith should have drawn an on-ice penalty, but to say definitively it deserves more punishment might not be correct. It was a questionable hit but not as vicious as Keith’s elbow.

As for the other extracurricular activities, most of it surrounded the Canucks’ attempts to find Keith and exact their own retribution on him. Alex Burrows and Keith have a long history of animosity while Dave Bolland and Henrik Sedin have had words over the years and had some on Wednesday. Newcomers to the rivalry, like Zack Kassian, had some words with Brent Seabrook among others.

So it was business as usual for these two rivals. Before the game Canucks defenseman Kevin Bieksa said the teams simply “hated each other.” After the game Seabrook reiterated that notion. It’s about the only thing the two teams can agree upon these days.