Sabres-Blackhawks Preview

Earlier this week, Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Niklas

Hjalmarsson was suspended two games for delivering an illegal

blind-side hit that injured the Buffalo Sabres’ Jason

Pominville.

Hjalmarsson is eligible to return Saturday, just in time to host

a Sabres team still fuming about that vicious check.

Things could get chippy and Hjalmarsson could be targeted when

the Blackhawks and Buffalo meet for the second and final time this

season.

Hjalmarsson hit Pominville into the boards from behind in the

first period of Chicago’s 4-3 win in Buffalo on Monday.

Pominville didn’t move while on his back on the ice for 15

minutes, eventually getting carted off on a stretcher. He sustained

a concussion and a gash above his eye that required 7-8 stitches.

The six-year veteran, who was third on the Sabres last season in

goals (24), assists (38) and points (62), is out indefinitely.

Hjalmarsson, not known as a dirty player, drew a 5-minute major

and a game misconduct for the hit. On Wednesday, the NHL suspended

him for two games.

Considering Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller described the hit as a

“dumb hockey play,” he probably would have liked to see a longer

suspension.

“You can’t have a hit like that, it’s dangerous,” Miller said

after Tuesday’s practice.

Although Hjalmarsson will be back on the ice sooner than the

Sabres (1-3-1) would have liked, it will also give them a chance to

exact some revenge.

“I think it’ll get taken care of either with the league or, I

think, when we play them Saturday,” Buffalo agitator Patrick

Kaleta said before the suspension was announced. “We’ll make a

point that you can’t be taking hits like that against one of our

leaders.”

It is rare that the Sabres get another crack at an opponent from

the other conference. This is the first time in eight years that

these teams are playing each other twice in the same season.

The Blackhawks (2-2-1) overcame a shaky start by backup goalie

Corey Crawford in Monday’s meeting, as he yielded two goals in the

first three minutes. Crawford managed to settle down, finishing

with 32 saves, and Marian Hossa led Chicago with a pair of

goals.

Marty Turco got the start Friday, turning aside 30 shots in a

5-2 victory over Columbus – his first win with the Blackhawks.

The offense, inconsistent in the first four contests, didn’t

appear to be slowed Friday by the absence of Patrick Kane, who

didn’t make the trip because of an undisclosed illness. Patrick

Sharp broke open a one-goal game with two second-period scores,

while Hossa notched his fourth goal of the season.

Sharp and Hossa might again need to carry the offense if Kane, a

Buffalo native who scored Monday against the Sabres, is unable to

play.

Buffalo arrives in Chicago following a 0-3-1 homestand, capped

by a 2-1 loss to Montreal on Friday.

“When you have games at home, you got to take advantage,” Sabres

right wing Mike Grier said. “Hopefully we can get this straightened

out soon.”

The Sabres, who have scored only once in their last two games,

now play six of their next seven on the road, beginning with this

matchup against the defending Stanley Cup champions.

“Yeah, that will be an easy game. I’m looking forward to that

one,” coach Lindy Ruff deadpanned.