Niklas Hjalmarsson

Are the Blackhawks rushing back from concussions?

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Some troubling news out of Chicago today as the Blackhawks announced a trio of players — Jonathan Toews, Steve Montador and Niklas Hjalmarsson — won’t travel to California for this weekend’s games against L.A. and Anaheim.

The first two aren’t surprising. Toews wasn’t expected to travel and Montador is on IR — but the third is plenty intriguing.

See, Hjalmarsson played Thursday night against Dallas, his first appearance after missing seven games with a concussion. The 24-year-old Swede played just over 16 minutes against the Stars and his performance was described as “fine, steady” by head coach Joel Quenneville.

But Hjalmarsson leaving the team so quickly after coming back begs the question: Did he return from a concussion too soon?

The ‘Hawks faced a similar situation earlier this season with rookie center Marcus Kruger.

From the Chicago Sun-Times:

Kruger first suffered his concussion when Penguins defenseman Deryk Engelland checked him in the head on Dec. 20. He missed one game, but returned against the Blue Jackets and endured some tough hits. His symptoms returned and he missed the last eight games.

Kruger eventually returned on Jan. 14 and has been a lineup fixture ever since.

The Hjalmarsson and Kruger incidents rekindle memories of the hit Brent Seabrook absorbed from Raffi Torres in Game 3 of last year’s opening playoff round.

The hit appeared to knock Seabrook out, but he returned to the contest…only to be held out of Games 4 and 5 after concussion tests determined he shouldn’t play. Seabrook then returned for Games 6 and 7 of the series, at which point the Blackhawks’ concussion protocol was questioned. Former NHLer Keith Primeau took major issue with how the situation was treated.

“He should not have returned to play [in Game 3],” Primeau told CBC. “It’s extremely dangerous. He’s going to need time to recover.”

“I was watching the highlights and I saw the hit and my head just dropped because it was so upsetting. And then to see him get hit again … it was just so frustrating.”

PHT Related

Did Jonathan Toews play five games with a concussion?

Fight video: Zack Kassian racks up penalty minutes, faces Brian Strait

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Pulling Anders Nilsson didn’t stop the bleeding for the Edmonton Oilers. Instead, it really just spread the “wealth.”

The New York Islanders are up 7-1, so don’t be surprised if there’s some ugly stuff in the final frame.

Zack Kassian is an author of at least one outburst, as he was tagged with 19 penalty minutes for a display that included fighting Brian Strait, as you can see in the video above.

It’s not the only fight stemming from the blowout, either, as Eric Gryba just tangled with Matt Martin.

Could there be more?

Isles chase Nilsson from Oilers’ net in less than 12 minutes

Edmonton Oilers goalie Anders Nilsson, of Sweden, makes pad save against the Colorado Avalanche during the first period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Dec. 19, 2015, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
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There was a time when Anders Nilsson seemed like the best bet in the Oilers’ net this season. This … is not that time.

Less than 12 minutes into Sunday’s game, the New York Islanders roared to a 3-0 lead, and that was enough for Edmonton to give Nilsson the hook.

He allowed those three goals on 10 shots, so to be fair, that’s a pretty impressive chunk of chances (almost a shot on goal per minute).

Still, the Oilers were likely hoping to give Cam Talbot a breather, and instead he was rushed into action. Nilsson hadn’t played since Jan. 19, and he’s only appeared in three games in 2016.

As if this didn’t sting enough for Nilsson, consider the fact that he began his NHL career with the Islanders, who eventually decided he wasn’t worth keeping.

Ovi scores 30th as Caps beat Flyers for third straight victory

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Alex Ovechkin scored to join Wayne Gretzky and Mike Gartner as only players with at least 30 goals in each of their first 11 NHL seasons, and Matt Niskanen netted the game winner as Washington beat the Flyers 3-2 at Verizon on Super Bowl Sunday.

Michael Del Zotto and Nick Schultz replied for the Flyers, who suffered their second straight loss.

The win was the Capitals’ third in a row.

It didn’t always look as though Washington would emerge the victor, however. The Caps were out-shot 35-30 on the day and looked disjointed at times, finishing with 12 giveaways (Philly was credited with just five, for comparison’s sake).

But good teams find ways to win when they’re not playing especially well, and the Caps are a pretty good team — especially when Braden Holtby is on his game.

Holtby, atop many Vezina lists at the moment, had another terrific outing on Sunday, making 33 saves, perhaps none better than this one on Mark Streit in the second period:

Holtby’s counterpart, Steve Mason, had a solid outing as well, finishing with 27 stops.

Looking ahead, the Caps will now head out on a three-game Western Conference swing through Minnesota, Nashville and what promises to be a high-octane game in Dallas on Feb. 13.

The Flyers, meanwhile, will now kick off a three-game homestand against Anaheim, Buffalo and New Jersey.

 

Jets’ Stafford to have disciplinary hearing after high-sticking Holden

Colorado Avalanche's Nick Holden (2) hits Winnipeg Jets' Mathieu Perreault (85) during first period NHL hockey action in Winnipeg, Monday, Jan. 18, 2016. (Trevor Hagan/The Canadian Press via AP)
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Winnipeg forward Drew Stafford will meet with the NHL’s Department of Player Safety for his high stick on Colorado’s Nick Holden on Saturday night, the DoPS announced this afternoon.

There was no immediate video of the incident available. Stafford wasn’t penalized on the play, which occurred during the third period; Holden finished the final frame with 10 shifts for 6:46 of ice time.

Stafford, 30, has a clean disciplinary history and hasn’t been fined or suspended during his 10-year NHL career.