Wednesday, June 5, 2013
Blackhawks admire Hjalmarsson's grit
By Scott Powers
Game 3 wasn't easy for Niklas Hjalmarsson, who was hit hard by the puck and the Kings.
LOS ANGELES -- Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson had no interest Wednesday in recounting the experience of blocking a shot with his knee and basically fighting through a penalty kill shift on one leg during Game 3 of the Western Conference finals against the Los Angeles Kings.
"I don't really want to talk about that," Hjalmarsson said after participating in Wednesday's practice at Staples Center. "Do you guys have any questions about the game or something like that? I don't want to talk about getting shot."
Hjalmarsson wouldn't go there, but his teammates and coach were more than willing to do so. They praised Hjalmarsson for his toughness.
The Blackhawks were on a power play in the opening minutes of the third period when Hjalmarsson blocked a hard shot from the Kings' Slava Voynov with the inside of his left knee. He dropped immediately to the ice and remained face-first on the ice for nearly 10 seconds. With the play still going on, he cringed and struggled to get back to his feet.
Despite barely being able to stand and slowly hopping around on one leg near the bottom of the left circle, Hjalmarsson continue to try to help his unit. When the Kings' Jeff Carter moved the puck into the left circle and went to shoot, Hjalmarsson dove feet-first in an attempt to block it.
Again laying on the ice, Hjalmarsson pushed himself back onto his feet. He finally skated hunched over to the bench while attempting to put zero pressure on his left foot after the Blackhawks cleared the puck out of their defensive zone nearly 40 seconds from when he initially got hit.
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville described Hjalmarsson as a warrior after Tuesday's game and expanded on his thoughts on Wednesday.
"He laid there for a while," Quenneville said. "I was waiting for a whistle. Then he got up, tried to block another shot. I've seen Hammer take a lot of blows. It's tough to knock him down. Definitely a relief to see him get up. Knowing he's fine, we're happy to have him back."
Hjalmarsson left the game at 2:49 of the third period and was out for nearly 10 minutes. He returned to the ice at 12:37.
Blackhawks forward Viktor Stalberg was amazed to see Hjalmarsson back on the ice a day later.
"He's a tough guy back there," Stalberg said. "He's not going to make it look like it is worse than it is, that's for sure. When he's down, you know it is going to be pretty painful. When he came to the bench, I was sitting next to him for a while, but I didn't want to say anything because it looked like he was in a lot of pain for a while. It seemed to go over after a while, and I thought he looked pretty good out there today.
"Certainly, last night I was surprised to see him back out there, but it was great to see that. The guys kind of feed off that as well when you see guys battle like that. He said last night that it felt better than he thought after the game, so I wasn't too surprised to see him out there today."