Blackhawks

Blackhawks' Niklas Hjalmarsson rested, ready for 'most fun part of the year'

Blackhawks' Niklas Hjalmarsson rested, ready for 'most fun part of the year'

Niklas Hjalmarsson was understandably happy for two reasons.

He and his wife welcomed their second child, a boy, a few days ago. And now he can concentrate on playoff hockey, what he considers "the most fun part of the year."

"Yeah, it's a big relief to have been able to be a part of it myself, to be in town for it. I'm excited and glad everything went well," said Hjalmarsson, who stayed in Chicago during the Blackhawks' final regular-season road trip to await the birth of his second son. "So [now] I'm just excited to get the playoffs going and be back with the team here. just try to do my thing."

Hjalmarsson practiced with the Blackhawks the last two days as the team preps for Game 1 against the Nashville Predators on Thursday night. Hjalmarsson is like so many of his teammates: he hates missing games. But considering it was family first it was an easy call. That, and the extra rest after leading the Blackhawks in blocked shots this season is never a bad idea.

"Yeah, you can see it as a positive," he said. "I did a lot of working out and stayed in shape here on home ice, so I'm well rested. So I can't complain about that."

Coach Joel Quenneville said Hjalmarsson's break could benefit the defenseman mentally as well as physically.

"He's a warrior. No matter what he's going through and how he deals with pain or some tough shots in some spots, [he's] getting right back out there and trying to do the same thing and not being influenced with where he has to go. You've got to commend him on how he's a battler and how he does everything he can to keep the pucks ahead of him. I think that's probably not a bad thing that he went through being off for a few days," Quenneville said. "Everything's good now [with his family], so it's probably a good frame of mind to be approached in the playoffs."

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Watch for SHGs

Special teams always loom large and for the Blackhawks, there's one more item they're adding to the be-on-alert list: The Predators' propensity for scoring short-handed goals. Nashville scored a league-leading 12 of them this season.

"They have so many short-handed goals. They can create offense off the kill," Marian Hossa said. "They have so many guys who have been really hot lately, lots of individuals who can score the goals. It's really dangerous, and you have to play an even game. We have to be good defensively and wait for mistakes… when you play well defensively you're going to create options."

Rozsival recovering

Michal Rozsival underwent successful surgery to repair facial fractures on Tuesday. As for Rozsival's recovery timeline, Quenneville said, "at some point we expect him to be available." Rozsival was injured by a Nick Ritchie punch in the Blackhawks' game in Anaheim on Thursday.

Are Canadiens eyeing possible trade with Blackhawks?

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USA Today

Are Canadiens eyeing possible trade with Blackhawks?

The NHL trade deadline isn’t for another two-plus months, but this is an important time of year because all 31 teams have a pretty good idea of what its roster is as the standings take shape going into the 2020 calendar year. 

Management groups across the league are starting to gather more information and dig deeper on players they could be interested in ahead of the Feb. 24 deadline, whether it’s a buyer or a seller.

One frequent observer in Chicago has been the Montreal Canadiens, who have heavily scouted both the Blackhawks and Rockford IceHogs in the American Hockey League. Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin has been spotted multiple times at the United Center this season, including Sunday, and has made several trips to Rockford as well.

It’s believed the Canadiens are searching for a left-handed shot defenseman and that’s a position the Blackhawks have a surplus of. Erik Gustafsson, most notably, is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season and there haven’t been any talks about a possible extension to this point, according to a source.

With Drake Caggiula (concussion protocol), Duncan Keith (groin) and Andrew Shaw (concussion protocol) sidelined, the Blackhawks have had the opportunity to evaluate some of their prospects at the NHL level recently.

Dennis Gilbert and Anton Wedin have gotten several looks already, and same with Adam Boqvist and Matthew Highmore, both of whom were recalled on Monday ahead of the Blackhawks' three-game road trip. Dylan Sikura was called up over the weekend and made his season debut on Sunday against the Arizona Coyotes.

It’s too early to speculate what the Blackhawks’ trade-deadline plans may be because it will likely be determined by where they sit in the standings come February, but it’s worth monitoring going forward, as we discussed on the latest Blackhawks Talk Podcast. The Blackhawks and Canadiens are each five points out of a playoff spot in their respective conferences.

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Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Why are the Blackhawks so inconsistent?

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USA Today

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Why are the Blackhawks so inconsistent?

On the latest Blackhawks Talk Podcast, Charlie Roumeliotis and Nick Gismondi discuss the coaches getting involved in practice (0:40), the latest roster moves (2:45), Dennis Gilbert standing up for Alex DeBrincat (7:15), Robin Lehner's shootout struggles (13:45), the Blackhawks' inconsistency woes (17:45), performance vs. results (23:50) and the importance of the next eight games (27:35).

Listen to the full episode here or in the embedded player below:

Blackhawks Talk Podcast

Subscribe:

Attention Dish and Sling customers! You have lost your Blackhawks games on NBC Sports Chicago. To switch providers, visit mysportschicago.com.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Blackhawks easily on your device.