The NHL suspended the defenceman for five games on Friday for his elbow to the head of Vancouver Canucks forward Daniel Sedin.
The incident occurred with 6:24 left in the first period of Vancouver's 2-1 overtime loss to Chicago on Wendesday night. Keith hit Sedin in open ice and got his elbow up in the Swedish forward's face. Keith, the Blackhawks' top defenceman and the 2010 Norris Trophy winner, was given a two-minute minor penalty for elbowing on the play.
"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," said NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan in a statement. "We've also taken into consideration Keith's supplemental discipline record which includes no suspensions and one fine over nearly seven NHL seasons."
Sedin initially came right back out to participate in the power play with Keith in the penalty box, left for the dressing room shortly thereafter and did not return.
The Canucks offered a tepid response to the incident, which has resulted in many angry calls to local radio talk shows and emotional online postings.
Canucks assistant general manager Laurence Gilman said the club wants to put the incident behind it as it prepares for the playoffs.
"We respect the league's decision and move forward from this point on and try to renew a playoff position and secure the highest seeding possible," said Gilman. "That being said, our priority, obviously, is Daniel's health and well-being."
Sedin returned to Vancouver on Thursday, missing the team's 2-1 victory in Dallas that night, and is out indefinitely as the team prepares to conclude a four-game road trip Saturday in Denver against the Colorado Avalanche.
Gilman said Sedin remains in Vancouver receiving treatment and the team looks forward to him being healthy and fit and returning to action.
But the assistant GM and a team spokesman declined to offer an update on Sedin's condition.
"That's not something we're divulging to the public," said Gilman.
He also declined to discuss what the team thought of the incident or the length of the suspension, adding there was due process in the decision.
"It's time for us to look forward and not look back," he said.
It's the first significant injury for Sedin since he missed 18 consecutive games with a fractured foot midway through the 2009-10 season. He also sat out another contest later in the campaign.
Sedin, last season's NHL scoring leader, returned for one shift on the power play before leaving the game.
Keith waived his right to an in-person hearing and instead learned his fate over the phone.
Sedin has 30 goals and 37 assists in 72 games this season. Keith has registered four goals and 36 assists in 72 games.