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Monday, May 19, 2014
Hjalmarsson glad to be communicating

By Scott Powers

Blackhawks
Niklas Hjalmarsson won't shy away from the action despite his recent neck injury.
CHICAGO -- Communicating is part of what makes Niklas Hjalmarsson an effective defenseman for the Chicago Blackhawks.

Whether it’s talking between shifts on the bench or yelling and screaming to organize or alert his teammates on the ice, Hjalmarsson has relied on communication throughout his career.

Hjalmarsson had that tool taken away him for the most part the last two weeks. He was medically advised to rest his vocal chords after he was struck in the throat by a puck against the Minnesota Wild on May 4. He didn’t miss a shift or a game due to the injury, but he had to adapt and learn to play without relying on his voice.

Hjalmarsson spoke to the media Monday for the first time since the incident and acknowledged being quiet was at times difficult the last few weeks, but he felt fortunate to escape serious injury and be able to speak at all again.

“It was pretty scary once it happened,” Hjalmarsson said on Monday. “It was tough to breathe there for a couple minutes. I was just glad that I recovered quickly and once I figured out that I’m able to breathe, it was a big relief. Yeah, I guess I was pretty lucky and I’m just glad to be able to talk again and can’t wait to get rid of that neck guard that I’m still wearing.”

The black protective neck guard has been an inconvenience the past five games for Hjalmarsson, but he especially disliked not being able to talk with defensive partner Johnny Oduya and speak up on the ice.

“It was pretty tough in the beginning,” Hjalmarsson said. “I’m a guy that usually talks a lot on the ice especially with my D partner, screaming at him and screaming at my teammates sometimes, too. I think for some of the forwards, they were pretty happy with me not being able to talk for some time.

“As far as Johnny O, I think he’s pretty happy with that I can be able to communicate again. It was a little challenge, but playoffs is ... you’ve got to play through some injuries every now and then. Hopefully it’ll be better from now on.”

Hjalmarsson understood the seriousness of his injury and attempted to be as silent as possible. He said he felt some pain when he spoke.

“The doctor just told me, ‘You shouldn’t talk for two weeks. You should let it rest. Don’t talk unless it makes you money,’” Hjalmarsson said. “I really tried my best. A couple of sentences here and there I was able to squeeze in. I think I did a pretty good job. I’m not the guy that talks the most in our locker room, so I don’t think the guys noticed it too much. But if it would have happened to a guy like [Andrew Shaw] or someone like that, I think it would have been better.”

Whether or not his teammates noticed he was quieter than usual off the ice, his play on it continued to be recognized. Hjalmarsson hasn’t stopped stepping in the way of the pucks despite what happened to him. He’s blocked 12 shots in the last five games and leads the NHL with 42 blocks in the playoffs.

“I think every time I hear him talk it’s in Swedish anyways,” Blackhawks forward teammates Brandon Saad said with a smile. “There’s not too much communication. But, no, he’s a great player, and he leads by example by the way he plays. Regardless of whether he’s saying stuff or not, the way he plays on the ice with blocking shots and playing well defensively, it speaks for itself.”