TAMPA BAY -- Coyotes defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson will miss the final seven games of the season because of a lower-body injury.
"He's a big loss," Head Coach Rick Tocchet said. "'Hammer' is an all-in guy, a dressing-room guy. Obviously he's played well the last 20 games. I'm a big fan of 'Hammer.' The good thing with him is he's got plenty of time to rehab and he's in great shape. I talked to him today on the phone and he's going to come back stronger than ever."
Hjalmarsson suffered the injury during the second period of last week's game at Carolina. He fell to the ice without being hit and teammates helped him skate off the ice. He did not return to the game and flew to Arizona on Friday for further evaluation.
Hjalmarsson, an alternate captain, notched one goal and eight assists in 48 games this season, his first with the Coyotes. He also blocked 118 shots, and his 2.5 blocks per game led the team.
"'Hammer' is the goalie's favorite d-man because he's always helping you and making lots of blocks," Antti Raanta said. "When you're missing him, it's a big piece missing from the leadership group, too. It's a huge loss for the team but I think also a great challenge for the young guys to step it up and try to show what they have. Hopefully 'Hammer' gets healthy soon and we can see more from him next year."
The Coyotes acquired Hjalmarrson, who also missed 10 games and 16 games earlier in the season because of other injuries, via a trade with Chicago last summer. He is considered a key cog to Arizona's rebuild.
"Nik is a winner in every way and a big part of what we're trying to accomplish here in Arizona," Coyotes General Manager John Chayka said. "His work ethic and mindset were very valuable for our young players to be around. He now has a full summer to recover and we know he will come back even stronger."
Hjlamarsson is the second Coyotes defenseman to be sidelined for the season in the past week. Jason Demers also won't play again because of an upper-body injury.