Keith, Hawks will take precautions
The Blackhawks were saying little Thursday about Duncan Keith's condition.
Nobody in the organization was confirming or denying whether the team's best defenseman might have suffered a concussion on the hit from Buffalo's Drew Stafford in Wednesday's 4-1 victory, but it's almost certain Keith won't be in the lineup tonight against the New York Rangers at the United Center.
Keith took an elbow to the head from Stafford midway through the second period and had to be helped off the ice.
"He's got a bad headache, but hopefully he'll be OK," said Hawks general manager Dale Tallon. "We're just trying to be precautionary."
Tallon was in Oshawa, Ontario, on Wednesday for organizational scouting meetings and to watch the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game and didn't see Stafford drill one of his best players in the head.
"I didn't see it and obviously Dunc didn't either," Tallon said.
Keith was at the Hawks' Bensenville practice facility Thursday, but the media wasn't allowed to speak with him.
Stafford blamed Keith for attempting to do a toe drag across the middle of the offensive zone with his head down.
"I'm not trying to hurt anybody, but I'm not going to let up if a guy is making a toe drag across the middle with his head down," Stafford said.
There was no penalty on Stafford from either of the referees, Paul Devorski or Brian Pochmara. Ben Eager quickly jumped Stafford and earned six minutes in penalties, which the Hawks killed.
Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said he didn't like the hit, and Ben Eager called it "dirty."
There has been more and more talk of head shots in the NHL and whether there should be an automatic penalty even if the intent to injure isn't there.
"Everything I've heard lately is about head shots and how we're trying to take them out of the game," Patrick Sharp said. "It was one of those plays that happened fast. I can't speak for Stafford, but I'm sure he didn't try to hurt Dunc or hit him in the head.
"I don't know how you would take it out of the game. Maybe just more respect on each other's part, I guess. It's too fast out there. I think the league is doing a good job with intentional head shots, but if it's a clean hit, the refs think, and you happen to clip his head and daze him, how can you call it?"
It would be a huge blow to the Hawks should Keith be lost for any substantial period of time. He's a plus-23, plays more minutes than anyone on the team (almost 26 a game), and is the Hawks' eighth-leading scorer with 26 points.
"We'll miss him because he's a great player, but it's the same as when Patty Kane was out. Other guys have to step it up," Brian Campbell said.
It's likely Aaron Johnson would be moved into the lineup on defense if Keith can't play.