The Chicago Blackhawks' Duncan Keith will almost certainly be suspended for his elbow to the head of Vancouver's Daniel Sedin in Wednesday night's game between the two NHL teams, but the larger, more pressing question for the Canucks' leading goal scorer is, how much time will he actually be out of the lineup?
TSN reported that Sedin did not travel with the team to Dallas to play in Thursday night's game against the Stars.
Instead, Sedin returned home for further medical evaluation, which is the normal protocol these days for any injury that remotely resembles a concussion. Generally, the Canucks do not comment publicly on the nature or extent of the injury and even if they did, it probably wouldn't shed any new light on Sedin's condition given that it usually takes a few days to properly assess symptoms anyway.
Any number of players who've suffered concussions in the past two years, felt okay in the first 24 to 48 hours, only to have setbacks at that juncture that kept them out for extended periods.
So the Canucks are in a wait-and-see mode, which is also the NHL's strategy as it relates to Keith in terms of the supplementary discipline process. The surging Blackhawks – 9-1-1 without their injured captain Jonathan Toews who also happens to be recuperating from a concussion – don't play until Sunday's home date with the Nashville Predators.
Chicago has seven games remaining in the season and because Keith's hearing with Brendan Shanahan, the head of the NHL's player safety department, will be conducted on the telephone, it's considered a sign that any suspension will be five games or fewer. Normally, if the league wants to make an example of a player – or anticipates a suspension above five games – the disciplinary hearing is conducted in person.
Recently, Shanahan has levied three-game suspensions against players guilty of similar acts, although multiple factors will come into his decision-making process, including intent – something Keith denied post-game Wednesday. Keith has no previous history of supplemental discipline, which usually works in favour of a first-time offender..
Sedin, meanwhile, is out for the first time since he missed 19 games in the middle of 2009-10 season, the year his brother Henrik won the NHL MVP award, largely because Henrik Sedin was able to adjust relatively well to playing without his twin brother. The Canucks have multiple options in terms of how to deal with Daniel Sedin's absence, short and long term, and the possibility that Mason Raymond may get an enhanced scoring role in the near future is high.
The Canucks are two games into a four-game road trip that will conclude Saturday in Denver. After that, they'll be home for six of their final seven games, with the only away game being a quick trip over the Rocky Mountains to play Calgary in the second-last game of the season. The Canucks are largely set in the No. 2 playoff seed in the Western Conference and have basically been playing the game at three-quarter speed for weeks now, as if they're waiting to gear up slowly for the upcoming postseason.
It's safe to say that with little to prove on the ice, the most interesting drama of the next fortnight will occur in the trainer's room – and how quickly it takes the ultra-durable Sedin to bounce back from this injury. Without him, it's hard to imagine the Canucks having the depth to go four rounds deep the way they did a year ago.