ST. PAUL, Minn. – Niklas Hjalmarsson did not skate this morning but coach Joel Quenneville reiterated that the defenseman is fine and playing tonight when the Chicago Blackhawks face the Minnesota Wild in Game 4 of their second-round series.
Hjalmarsson has been off the ice for the past two days but Quenneville said he’s just resting. The defenseman has taken his shot-blocking lumps in the postseason, the most frightening when he caught a puck in the throat in Game 2 on Sunday. Hjalmarsson has been advised not to speak for some time but he has played through it.
Asked if Hjalmarsson’s situation could be a long-term concern, Quenneville said to laughs, “No, I don’t think so. He’ll be able to talk to you guys soon.”
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Meanwhile, Andrew Shaw is out for Game 4, and his injury situation doesn’t seem to be progressing. Shaw is still listed as day-to-day with an apparent right-leg injury suffered in Game 1 of this series, but Quenneville said on Friday that Shaw has not skated since getting hurt.
The Blackhawks skated their same lines from Thursday; if that holds tonight, Kris Versteeg will be the healthy scratch among the forwards. Nick Leddy is expected to play again tonight. The team wasn’t happy with its 4-0 loss to the Wild in Game 3, and knows it has to be much better to bring a 3-1 series lead back to Chicago. In their past five series, the Blackhawks are 13-1 after Game 3's.
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“This will be a big test for us today,” Quenneville said. “Overall, we’re looking for a response from our last game. You go along, win six games, may you get a little comfortable with your team and yourselves. Having an appetite where we come in with something to prove is something we’re looking for (tonight).”
For the Wild, forward Matt Cooke will return after serving a seven-game suspension for his knee-on-knee hit to Colorado defenseman Tyson Barrie in the first round.