Niklas Hjalmarsson’s woes complicate Blackhawks’ injury picture
BY ADAM L. JAHNS email@example.com February 10, 2012 11:14PM
The facts: 7:30, Ch. 9, 720-AM.
Updated: March 12, 2012 8:08AM
SAN JOSE, Calif. — The Blackhawks’ blue line was already in a rough patch when it was at full strength. Now it looks completely different thanks to injuries.
Niklas Hjalmarsson and Steve Montador were sent back to Chicago on Friday before the Hawks met the San Jose Sharks with what coach Joel Quenneville called upper-body injuries.
Hjalmarsson’s situation is the more ominous. The Hawks’ leading shot blocker and a top penalty killer missed practices Wednesday and Thursday with what the Hawks thought was the flu, which was going around the locker room. But while Bryan Bickell, Nick Leddy and Viktor Stalberg recovered quickly, Hjalmarsson did not, and he may be suffering from concussion-like symptoms.
‘‘Things changed,’’ Quenneville said when pressed about Hjalmarsson’s status.
Montador was injured Tuesday against the Colorado Avalanche. He underwent X-rays at the Pepsi Center before the Hawks left and was placed on injured reserve Friday.
Rookie Dylan Olsen was called up from Rockford, and Sami Lepisto played Friday against the Sharks. Leddy, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Sean O’Donnell made up the rest of the defense.
Life as the Hawks’ No. 8 defenseman has been very tough for Lepisto, who had played only three times since Nov. 18 before playing Friday. He was last in the lineup Jan. 2 against the Edmonton Oilers, a span of 15 games, seeing only 5:22 of ice time.
‘‘It’s been awhile,’’ he said. “Of course, you’re frustrated. You feel good but just don’t get to play. Obviously, it sucks. You just try to work in practice as hard as you can.’’
Quenneville didn’t offer a detailed explanation for not playing Lepisto, only saying it’s tough to juggle eight defensemen. He has preferred to play enforcer John Scott, a healthy scratch Friday, over Lepisto for most of the season.
‘‘Sometimes you have to make some tough decisions,’’ Quenneville said. ‘‘I was telling Sami the other day to be patient and that things can change quickly, and here he is.’’
Quenneville is trying to get a feel for where veteran center Brendan Morrison fits. Morrison has gone from being on the second line to the fourth to being a healthy scratch Friday.
‘‘The first couple games you play with guys that put up big numbers,’’ Morrison said recently. ‘‘You don’t score in the first two games you’re with them, you start thinking you’re the problem. But you can’t get too hard on yourself. There’s kind of ebbs and flows over the course of the year.’’