Hnidy took the news in stride, knowing that his day would come at some point in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. It came faster than anyone expected when he was inserted into Saturday's Game 2 lineup after defenseman Matt Hunwick was lost to a ruptured spleen suffered in the series opener.
Hunwick was operated on Saturday afternoon and is resting comfortably in the hospital. It's unlikely he will return this postseason.
Not only did Hnidy play, but he scored a goal that gave Boston a comfortable 3-1 lead early in the second period of an eventual 5-1 victory at TD Banknorth Garden that puts Boston ahead 2-0 in the best-of-7 series.
Amazingly, Hnidy has now scored in his first playoff appearance in each of the past three seasons. Not bad for a guy who has just 14 goals in 477 regular-season games.
But Hnidy admitted that what happened to Hunwick dampened the joy about his own good fortune.
"You never want to see a teammate go through that," Hnidy said. "We're a really tight-knit team and it was tough. I know he wants us to step up for him and go out there and play. It just gave us that little extra."
For the game, Hnidy played 16-plus minutes of near-flawless hockey on the third defensive pairing. He committed only one turnover and he blocked two shots. He also scored the game-turning goal, quelling Montreal's confidence just five minutes after Alex Kovalev had opened the second period by scoring to make it 2-1.
Hnidy joined a rush started by winger P.J. Axelsson and was in perfect position when Axelsson left a drop pass. Hnidy scooped it up and fired a laser that beat Carey Price to make it 3-1 and start a celebration that lasted for the final 30 minutes of the game.
"I didn't know it went in until the light came on. I was just yelling to Axy that I was there and he was driving through to the net to give that little bit of a screen I needed," Hnidy said. "I just wanted to get a quick release and put it on net and if it didn't go in, there would be a rebound."
Boston coach Claude Julien knew that Hnidy was capable of holding his own after revealing how difficult it was to sit Hnidy in favor of Steve Montador for Game 1.
"Shane Hnidy has been a good player for us all year," Julien said. "Coming into our lineup tonight and doing the job that he did is to his credit. He's come in and he played well and was even rewarded with that goal. I was happy for him."
So were Hnidy's teammates, who call the rock-solid defenseman "Sheriff."
"Sheriff, that's the way he has been ever since he got here," explained goalie Tim Thomas, who made 30 saves. "Every time he has had to step in, he's come up huge. He definitely did that tonight. He was cool, calm and collected."