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Hjalmarsson regrets hit, hopes Pominville gets better

by Brian Hedger /
CHICAGO -- Shortly after the Chicago Blackhawks finished their morning skate Wednesday, defenseman Brian Campbell was in the hallway at United Center doing lunges to rehab his sprained knee while wearing a weighted vest.
Inside the Hawks' locker room, Campbell’s defense partner wore a different kind of weight on his shoulders. Niklas Hjalmarsson officially was suspended for two games by the NHL for a hit on Buffalo's Jason Pominville during Monday's game in Buffalo.
Pominville got a concussion and stitches above his left eye when his head hit the glass. Hjalmarsson will miss Wednesday's game against Nashville and Friday's game at Columbus.
Hjalmarsson expressed concern for Pominville, but also is disappointed about missing action because of the hit -- which he originally thought was clean.
"The League gave me two games and they have a tough job," Hjalmarsson said. "It's not that easy for them to say how many games I'm going to get. It's a fast game out there and you've got to make decisions real fast. Sometimes it can get ugly. I really didn't intend to hurt him and I really hope that Jason gets well as soon as possible."
Hjalmarsson will be eligible to return to the ice for Saturday's game, but that's against the Sabres. Several Buffalo players had openly hoped for a long suspension for Hjalmarsson, including goalie Ryan Miller, who hoped any banishment would last beyond Saturday's rematch.
Hjalmarsson said he's not worried about potential retribution on the ice.
"It's the League's decision, not the other team's," he said. "That's their opinion and it's only the League's opinion that matters."
Hjalmarsson said he was told by League officials that his hit was "too hard," in that situation -- in which Pominville was skating slowly next to the boards as the puck started to come toward him.
"It's more just too hard of a hit I guess," Hjalmarsson said. "Maybe I should have considered him being in a vulnerable position a bit more and not hit him as hard. I really didn't mean to hurt Jason and that's not the way I play. Maybe I went in too hard, maybe I didn't. It's tough to say. But I don't think anyone is out there to hurt people."
Crawford gets another nod -- After picking up the Hawks' first win Monday in Buffalo, rookie goalie Corey Crawford will start in goal again Wednesday against Nashville.
The Hawks informed Crawford and veteran Marty Turco of the decision Tuesday.
"I'm pretty happy about it," said Crawford, who gave up two quick goals to the Sabres in his first start before settling down to get the win. "The more I play, the better it is. I'm just excited to get another start and hopefully we can pull another one out."
Turco, who came to the salary-cap squeezed Hawks this summer, is doing his best to take it in stride.
"Nothing surprises me really, anymore," Turco said. "It's early, but the emphasis is on winning here and that's still my most favorite thing about the Blackhawks. We've got a ton of games coming up and (Crawford) played well and we won. That's as far as I look at it."
For Nashville, Anders Lindback will get his first NHL start after relieving Predators starter Pekka Rinne, who left the season-opening win against Anaheim with a lower-body injury and didn't make the trip to Chicago. Backing him up will be Mark Dekanich, who like Lindback never has started an NHL game. According to the Predators, it's the first time a team has dressed two goaltenders with zero NHL starts since Washington on Dec. 12, 2008.

Preds hope for triumphant return -- The last time Nashville was in the United Center was last spring, for Game 5 of the first-round series against the Hawks -- which many point to as a turning point in Chicago's run to the Stanley Cup.
The Predators were less than a minute away from going up 3-2 in the series with a victory before Patrick Kane scored a shorthanded goal to tie the game with just 13.6 seconds left in regulation, and then Marian Hossa came out of the penalty box to score the overtime winner.
The Predators then lost Game 6 in Nashville, a defeat that stuck with them all summer as they watched the Hawks surge to Chicago's first Cup in 49 years.
"It obviously stung," said veteran Nashville forward Steve Sullivan, who spent part of five seasons in Chicago. "It stung for a while, but you can learn from it. The worst thing you can do is not learn from it. We think we've become a better hockey club because of it, and we're hoping for bigger and better things this year."
Nashville coach Barry Trotz said Game 5 and the series in general, while painful, should be a big confidence booster for his team.
"Everybody you talk to says that we were the toughest series for (Chicago) by far last year," he said. "That's great in a sense of saying that maybe we're closer than even we think. At the same time, we learned a hard lesson last year. We let them off the ropes. They got off the ropes and went a long ways. What it does is it validates that we're a good hockey team, and what we need to do is become a great hockey team."
O'Brien says roster changes will impact Hawks -- Nashville defenseman Shane O'Brien was right in the middle of some bad-blood skirmishes between Vancouver and Chicago as a member of the Canucks.
Now he has changed uniforms and so have most of the players he had run-ins with on the Hawks. O'Brien said Wednesday the Hawks definitely will miss players like Dustin Byfuglien, Andrew Ladd and Ben Eager, all of whom were dealt to Atlanta this summer.
"I'm not a GM or a scout or anything, so I don't know a whole bunch about the new guys that they've got," O'Brien said. "It takes a lot of skill to win the Stanley Cup, but it also takes a lot of character -- and they seemed to have that the past couple of years in Chicago. I'm not saying the new guys don't have that, but it's one of those things where it takes everybody to win a championship."
Like all who were paying attention to the Hawks' offseason, O'Brien realized they were moves that had to be made.
"We live in a salary-cap era now," he said. "They probably didn't want to get rid of the guys they did, but they had no choice."
No rest for the best -- Without Campbell and now Hjalmarsson, the ice time for Chicago's No. 1 defense pairing of Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook likely will grow even more than it's been in the season's first three games.
"Yeah, we're just going to set up some oxygen tanks on the bench and have a few more commercial timeouts," Hawks center Patrick Sharp joked. "Then they can play the whole game tonight."
Keith wasn't exactly laughing about the increased ice time, however.
"I feel pretty good, but obviously it is a lot more ice time," said the reigning Norris Trophy winner. "You've just got to be smart when you're playing that much and try to be good positionally."
The situation also opens a spot for defenseman Jordan Hendry to play more.
"It's tough to see a guy get suspended, but it's a chance to get back in the lineup and show the coaches and everybody else I can play and hopefully get some confidence back in my game," said Hendry.
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