LOS ANGELES – Niklas Hjalmarsson was back on the ice on Wednesday, skating along just fine and showing no ill effects of a blistering block he took off the inside of his left knee Tuesday night.
It was a shot block, that ensuing day’s skate on that leg, that the Chicago Blackhawks defenseman didn’t want to talk about, other than to say he’s fine. But the Blackhawks are used to seeing Hjalmarsson make the big blocks, shake them off and play again as soon as possible.
Granted, the Blackhawks were anxious as Hjalmarsson went down for a few seconds, struggled to get up, tried to block another shot and then slowly got back to the bench.
“He laid there for a while. I was waiting for a whistle and then he tried to block another shot. I’ve seen him take a lot of blows and it’s tough to knock him down,” said coach Joel Quenneville, who called Hjalmarsson a “warrior” following the game. “It’s definitely a relief to see him get back up and we’re happy to have him back.”
This is just part of Hjalmarsson’s game: block the shots, take the lumps and get back to blocking again. It’s a brutal job; it would also be a thankless one if his teammates weren’t so grateful for him making the sacrifice. Hjalmarsson has 26 blocks this postseason, which ranks him 10th in the league.
Last night’s block was enough to make teammates wince.
“I was sitting next to him on the bench for a while; I didn’t want to say anything because he looked like he was in a lot of pain,” Viktor Stalberg said. “He’s a tough guy back there. He’s not going to make it look worse than it is, that’s for sure. When he’s down you know it’s got to be pretty painful.
“Guys feed off that (toughness) as well,” Stalberg added. “You see them battle. But after the game last night he said it felt better than he thought. So I wasn’t too surprised to see him out there today.”