Saturday, Jan. 15, 2011
By Tracey Myers
NASHVILLE Niklas Hjalmarsson got up slowly hobbled to the bench after blocking a shot early against the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday night. A few minutes later the Chicago Blackhawks defenseman was taking a quick whirl around the ice and back in the game.
Defensive partner Brian Campbell called shot blocking an art form, its primary colors being black and blue. But for Hjalmarsson, the bumps, bruises and welts are just an occupational hazard.
I just play like that, ever since I started to play hockey, Hjalmarsson said about sacrificing, even when hes in pain. Im just trying to do as much as I can to try and prevent (goals).
Campbell remembered getting ready to block a shot in Los Angeles last season, only for Hjalmarsson to step in front of him and take the brunt of it.
Hes committed to winning, committing to doing things we need to do to win and he wants others to follow, Campbell said. If someones not doing their job hell be vocal about sacrificing for the good of a team. Not everybody sees the plays and sacrifices he makes but I do. Hopefully some people do notice.
Blocks aside, Hjalmarsson has just been solid in all areas after getting off to a rocky start. He was suspended two games for a hit on Buffalos Jason Pominville in October, and was a minus-10 in the early going. Hjalmarsson said the suspension did not affect his game when he returned.
Still, it took some time. But when Hjalmarsson and Campbell were put together again, the two resumed their chemistry. Coach Joel Quenneville said Hjalmarssons defensive game has been good throughout.
Hes been steadier, Quenneville said. The one thing about his game you always expect is that defensively hes dependable, reliable and positionally strong.
Tracey Myers is CSNChicago.com's Blackhawks Insider. Follow Tracey on Twitter @TramyersCSN for up-to-the-minute Hawks information.