Suspended for the start of the playoffs? Keith offered in-person hearing

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The defending champion Chicago Blackhawks could be without their playoff MVP for the start of the playoffs.

Duncan Keith has been offered an in-person hearing by the NHL’s Department of Player Safety for high-sticking Minnesota’s Charlie Coyle in the face last night.

An in-person hearing doesn’t guarantee that a suspension will be longer than five games, but it opens up the possibility. The Blackhawks have five games remaining in the regular season.

This is not the first time the veteran defenseman has faced a lengthy suspension around this point in the regular season. In 2011-12, Keith was suspended five games for elbowing Vancouver’s Daniel Sedin. The difference then is that the Blackhawks had seven games remaining, meaning he was able to return for the final two prior to the postseason.

The ‘Hawks are likely to face either Dallas or St. Louis in the first round.

Related: No doubt about it: Duncan Keith wins the Conn Smythe Trophy