Niklas Hjalmarsson to return from suspension when Blackhawks take on Predators

Niklas Hjalmarsson to return from suspension when Blackhawks take on Predators

Niklas Hjalmarsson will return to the lineup, and Marian Hossa and Artem Anisimov are also expected to play when the Blackhawks face the Nashville Predators on Friday night.

Hossa did not practice on Thursday, but coach Joel Quenneville said it was just a maintenance day. Anisimov started practice but left after a few minutes; Quenneville said it was just a “preventive” measure.

Corey Crawford will start vs. the Predators.

The Blackhawks tinkered with their lines on Thursday. Artemi Panarin moved to the top line with Jonathan Toews and Richard Panik, while Tyler Motte moved up to the second line with Anisimov and Kane. Asked if those top two lines were altered due to Hossa’s absence or if they could be implemented in tomorrow’s game, Quenneville said, “we’re looking at it.”

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As for Hjalmarsson, he’s completed his three-game suspension for his preseason hit on St. Louis’ Ty Rattie. Quenneville would not say which defenseman would come out of the lineup for tomorrow’s game. Hjalmarsson, meanwhile, is ready to return.

“Very excited. It’s always a fun building to play in, too, in Nashville. It’s always loud and high-paced game,” he said. “So it’s going to be a tough challenge right away, but I’m excited and I’m looking forward to it.”

The Blackhawks could’ve used Hjalmarsson for every situation in their season-opening loss to St. Louis on Wednesday, including their penalty kill. Hjalmarsson did like what he saw from the Blackhawks’ young defensemen, Michal Kempny and Gustav Forsling.

“I thought both of them were very impressive. If you didn’t know it was their first game, you definitely wouldn’t have thought that it was their first game,” he said. “I think they played a really solid, solid game and as a lot of guys have said before this season, I think on the back end, we’re as deep as we have ever been. So it’s always good with competition. It keeps pushing everybody to be on their toes and be at their best to stay in the lineup. Hopefully that will be a healthy competition throughout the whole year.”

Sports Talk Live Podcast: Is Crawford ready to go?


Sports Talk Live Podcast: Is Crawford ready to go?

Jimmy Greenfield, Connor McKnight, and Matt Spiegel join Kap on the panel to discuss Corey Crawford back on the ice for the first time in 10 months. The Bears have good news when it comes to Khalil Mack, who injured his ankle against the Dolphins.

Plus, Fred Hoiberg announces that Jabari Parker is coming off the bench for the season opener.

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

Niklas Hjalmarsson 'wasn't happy' about trade, but remembers time with Blackhawks fondly

Niklas Hjalmarsson 'wasn't happy' about trade, but remembers time with Blackhawks fondly

Apparently time doesn’t heal all wounds. 

Nearly a year and a half since being traded to the Coyotes, Niklas Hjalmarsson will return to the United Center ice on Thursday playing for the visiting team.  

“It’s going to be strange coming in as the away team and being in the other locker room,” said Hjalmarsson on Wednesday. “I bet it’s going to be a lot of emotions and mixed feelings.” 

This is also the first time Hjalmarsson has been back to the city of Chicago since he was traded, a city he called his “second home.” A home where he spent parts of 10 seasons, and never really planned on leaving.

“I wasn’t happy, to be honest with you,” said Hjalmarsson of the trade to Arizona. “I was shocked. It took me a couple days to actually realize I wasn’t going to play for the Hawks anymore.”

Including the playoffs, Hjalmarsson played 751 games in the Indian head sweater. Despite that and the team’s three Stanley Cup victories, the Blackhawks shipped him off to Arizona for Connor Murphy and Laurent Dauphin in June of 2017.

“You kind of let it go after a while,” he said. “Now I’m just hoping all the success for the guys over here too.”

Hjalmarsson was known for his toughness, repeatedly blocking shot after shot, giving up his body, while never missing a shift. He credits his long-time teammates — Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook — for a lot of his success and identity on the blue line.

“I couldn’t have had better role models coming into a team,” he said. “I’m very thankful to have played on the same team as those guys and created a lot of success together. We’re always going to be connected with the Cups that we’ve had.”

The third championship won by that defense-trio was on United Center ice against the Lightning in 2015, but that isn’t the memory that stands out most for Hjalmarsson.

“The first Cup is always going to be pretty special,” said the 31-year old. “Even just going to the conference final (in 2009), even when we lost against Detroit that year, the year before was great memories too. The first time for me going into the playoffs and playing deep.”

The tables have turned now for both Hjalmarsson and the Blackhawks. 

The Coyotes have yet to score an even-strength goal this season, while the Blackhawks have claimed eight of a possible 10 points thus far through five games and expect to have their starting goaltender back between the pipes. 

But you won’t hear any ill-will from Hjalmarsson, he’s still rooting for the Hawks.

“I always think that Chicago deserves to have a team in the playoffs,” he said. “It’s not that I wish them not to do well. It’s the total opposite. I want them to have continued success.”