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Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Ryan Miller: Hit deserves suspension

By Jesse Rogers

Count Buffalo Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller among those who believe Niklas Hjalmarsson should be suspended for the hit he laid on forward Jason Pominville in the Blackhawks' 4-3 win over the Sabres on Monday.

"I don't even know if there was enough made of it, because Jason was walking out with just stitches," Miller said after practice on Tuesday. "What if Jason has a fractured neck? We don't even know if it's going to have an impact with concussions.

"I just think no matter how badly Hjalmarsson feels, no matter if it's unintentional, we have [to] change the culture of it if we're ever going to change the situations we're seeing where guys are laying [there], guys are bleeding, and missing time with concussions. It's completely an unnecessary play. So I don't think enough's being made of it right now."

Pominville sustained a concussion and a gash above his eye that required at least seven stitches. He was diagnosed in the building without going to a hospital.

With the Blackhawks trailing 2-1 and 5:42 remaining in the first period, Hjalmarsson hit Pominville from behind just inside the Sabres' zone, sending him flying into the boards where his head hit the glass violently.

Though Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville even questioned whether the hit should have been a penalty in the first place, Miller says there's no doubt.

"No matter how bad Hjalmarsson feels, it's still an illegal hit, it still put our guy out," Miller said. "It's suspendable in my mind. Absolutely, it needs to be punished. I don't care if it's unintentional. It's what we have to get away from in hockey right now. It's the culture of it, where, 'I was trying to make the play, therefore it's not my fault.' "

Hjalmarsson was given a five-minute major penalty and a game misconduct, forcing the Hawks to play with five defenseman for the rest of the game.

"God, I mean, when he left the ice, [Hjalmarsson] was surprised he got kicked out," Miller said. "It's like, 'Are you serious?' I would've probably started shading toward the dressing room if I were him, start skating off. I'm glad he admitted to it, and he didn't mean to do it. But you got to change the culture of it sometime. I hope that the league wakes up and sets a precedent for the year."

The NHL held a hearing with Hjalmarsson on Tuesday to determine whether further punishment is warranted. The league said a decision will be announced before the Blackhawks host Nashville on Wednesday.

Pominville is out indefinitely and was resting at home Tuesday after still experiencing concussion symptoms. Under NHL rules, he must miss at least a week after he is symptom-free.

He's a top-line and versatile forward, who plays on both power-play and penalty-killing units, but had yet to register a point in three games this season.

The Sabres host New Jersey on Wednesday, beginning a stretch of three games in four nights that ends in Chicago. Sabres agitator Patrick Kaleta was quick to note that the two teams will meet again this weekend.

"I think it'll get taken care of either with the league or, I think, when we play them Saturday," he said. "We'll make a point that you can't be taking hits like that against one of our leaders."

Pominville was injured after skating backward along the sideboard in the Sabres end, waiting for the puck to reach him. Hjalmarsson hit him just behind the right shoulder. Pominville was sent face-first into the boards and crumpled to the ice.

Hjalmarsson said the play developed quickly.

"My intention wasn't to hurt him," he said after the game. "You never want to see someone laying on the ice like that."

Sabres coach Lindy Ruff was upset with the hit, but will not say whether Hjalmarsson should be further punished.

"You can't lose good players to hits like this," Ruff said. "In the past, I might have flipped out and started screaming and yelling. But I'm going to let the league deal with it. And I think the hits do need to be dealt with."

Jesse Rogers covers the Blackhawks for and ESPN 1000. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.