When Niklas Hjalmarsson paired with Brent Seabrook, he was dealing with both familiar and uncharted territory.
No, its not the first time he and Seabrook have teamed together. That was the comfortable part. But in Duncan Keiths absence, the Swedish defenseman had to take on some serious minutes per game. It was going to be a tough task, especially since Hjalmarsson had missed so many games lately from a concussion.
But in two games with Seabrook, Hjalmarsson is feeling good about his partner and his minutes.
Hjalmarsson played a season-high 26:04 in the Blackhawks shootout loss to the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday night. He finished with three shots on goal, two takeaways and a blocked shot, but most important soaked up those big minutes that are a nightly habit for Keith. Hjalmarsson said hes feeling better with each game.
The conditionings getting close to (where it was) before I got injured, said Hjalmarsson, who missed 13 of 14 games through February and March. Its good for me to play more minutes and hopefully be better prepared for the playoffs. We have to get there, but hopefully we do and Ill be in good shape.
Coach Joel Quenneville said Hjalmarsson has looked good with Seabrook these past two games.
We like that pair. Hammer can absorb minutes and hes comfortable against top lines as well, he said. The offensive side of his game is safe but at the same time, the defensive side of his game is really safe.
As far as playing with Seabrook, well, that was the easy part. And Hjalmarsson said recently he welcomes the challenge of competing against the oppositions top players.
I love to play with him; hes such a solid player, Hjalmarsson said. When you go out you know hes going to do his job. I just have to be on my toes and do my thing and usually things work out pretty good.