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.
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.”