Keith's absence created big challenge in Game 4

LOS ANGELES - Replacing suspended defenseman Duncan Keith was the biggest challenge of Game 4 for the Blackhawks.

Keith was suspended by the NHL for one game for slashing Kings forward Jeff Carter in the mouth in Game 3. He will be eligible to return for Game 5 of the Western Conference finals on Saturday at the United Center.

"Big loss for us, but you have to deal with it," said Michal Rozsival, one of the defensemen coach Joel Quenneville was looking for to pick up some of the minutes Keith plays.

Sheldon Brookbank, who was on the ice when the Kings scored their second goal Thursday, replaced Keith in the lineup in what was his first action since the last game of the season in St. Louis on April 27.

"I guess you're kind of like you're on call," Brookbank said. "You've got to stay ready and wait to hear if you're needed or not. I've been trying to stay with it in the playoffs. Stay prepared. It's not the ideal situation, but that's why you have extra players. If you're going to go on a run, at some point guys are going to be needed."

Quenneville lauded Brookbank for staying ready to play.

"He's been excited to play every game we've played in the playoffs," Quenneville said. "You have to commend him. He's practiced very well. It's a great opportunity for him. You've got to commend him on how his attitude has been throughout these entire playoffs knowing he hasn't gotten a chance yet to play."

Quenneville wasn't expecting Brookbank to be rusty from the layoff.

"I can probably evaluate his performance by how he's been practicing," Quenneville said. "I'm excited about what he can bring to our team.

"I had to tell Brooksy a couple times, be patient, there's going to be an opportunity and that it could be the most critical time come the playoffs. Nice to see him get a chance."

The Hawks had a lot to make up for without Keith in the lineup.

"I like his competitiveness and leadership," Quenneville said about Keith. "Certainly he brings a lot of good qualities to our team in all situations. The quality of ice time he consumes, how efficient he is at it. You're missing minutes. We'll share those across the board."

Quenneville was asked how Keith took the news that he wouldn't be playing in such an important game.

"He's where he's at," Quenneville said. "He's dealing with it. We've all dealt with it and we're moving forward."

Both teams were without top players Thursday with Kings center Mike Richards missing his third game in a row with concussion-like symptoms.

Kings coach Darryl Sutter said the Hawks still were dangerous without Keith.

"Chicago's the best team in the league this year, not based on one player," Sutter said. "In fact, Duncan Keith's minutes were cut back substantially this year to allow them to be a fresh team every night.

"Probably one of the reasons they were the best team in the league by a long shot was the fact that their defense was healthy. I think if you look at it, Duncan and (Brent) Seabrook and (Niklas) Hjalmarsson and (Johnny) Oduya either played 46, 47, 48 games, and probably one of those was resting for the playoffs. I don't think we're too concerned with one player for them."

Former Hawks center Colin Fraser agreed with his coach.

"He's a Norris winner, a fast guy and he plays a lot of minutes," Fraser said. "But it doesn't change our game plan. Whether he's in or out, our game plan stays the same. We just have execute it and do as well or better than we did in Game 3."

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