Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2010
By Tracey Myers
Niklas Hjalmarsson's punishment was handed down on Tuesday afternoon, when the Blackhawks defenseman got a two-game suspension for his hit on Jason Pominville according to TSN.ca's report. There are all sorts of opinions on whether it was worth suspension or not. Joel Quenneville said postgame Monday he didn't think so. The Sabres did think so. No, there was no bad intent but it was still a bit from behind and a player's head went into the boards.
But I digress. The opinion that ultimately counts is the NHL's, and the ruling has been passed. You wish Pominville a speedy recovery and return from that concussion. As for the Blackhawks, it's time to regroup, especially along the blue line. Because for at least two games, that once deep defensemen corps is running very thin.
The Blackhawks were already adjusting to the loss of Brian Campbell, who has about 3-4 weeks to go on that sprained right MCL. Now Hjalmarsson is out a few games. So the onus falls on those remaining. Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook have taken on much of that load; Keith has played more than 30 minutes in each of the Hawks' first three games, including nearly 34 in the season opener against Colorado.
Here comes the "no kidding" part of my soliloquy: those minutes need to be spread out more. Nick Boynton said after Monday's game that he's just fine with playing more minutes. Rookie Nick Leddy, John Scott, Jordan Hendry (who's been a scratch the past two games but they need him now), all hands have to be on deck.
And is it time to break up that Keith-Seabrook tandem, if but for a few games? I know, the chemistry of the two together is fantastic. Lightning and thunder. When asked about it a few days ago -- before the Hjalmarsson suspension -- coach Joel Quenneville didn't sound too keen on the idea. But that was before all of this, and it may have to be a short-term solution.
Either way, the healthy D-men have to step up and take on more responsibilities. Some will grow up fast, some will grow into new roles. Adjusting on the fly is something all teams have to do at some point of the season. The Blackhawks will find out how quickly they can do it.
Tracey Myers is CSNChicago.com's Blackhawks Insider. Follow Tracey on Twitter @TramyersCSN for up-to-the-minute Hawks information.