SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Injured Blackhawks defensemen Niklas Hjalmarsson and Steve Montador went back to Chicago, while rookie Dylan Olsen joined the team in San Jose for their game Friday against the Sharks.
In other words, the Hawks' blue line will look very different.
Hjalmarsson missed their past two practices with what the Hawks thought was the flu, which had been going around the locker room. But as others like Bryan Bickell, Nick Leddy and Viktor Stalberg recovered quickly, Hjalmarsson did not. It now looks like Hjalmarsson is battling a concussion.
"Things changed," coach Joel Quenneville said more than once when pressed about Hjalmarsson's status after the Hawks' morning skate on Friday.
Sami Lepisto, who last played 5:22 on Jan. 2 against the Edmonton Oilers, and Olsen, a rookie, will both be in the lineup as the Hawks look to end their six-game skid against goalie Antti Niemi and the rival Sharks. Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Sean O'Donnell and Leddy make up the rest of the defensive corps.
"It does feel like [forever]," said Lepisto, who has played just three times since Nov. 18. "It's been a while."
Montador was injured Tuesday against the Colorado Avalanche and placed on injured reserve Friday. He left in the second period of the loss and underwent x-rays. Quenneville said he was day-to-day, but after being placed on IR, he will miss at least the Hawks' next two games against the Sharks and Saturday against the Phoenix Coyotes.
Montador, 32, has spent most of the season as the Hawks' fifth defenseman. He has 14 points (five goals), 45 penalty minutes and a plus-4 rating in 51 games. He's missed every practice since his injury.
Olsen, 21, is considered the Hawks' best blue-line prospect. He made his NHL debut earlier this season. In two games with the Hawks, he's recorded four shots on goal, five hits and one block.
Olsen was traveling to San Jose Friday morning and didn't arrive in time for the Hawks' morning skate.
"In those two games he played, I thought he was real solid for us," Quenneville said. "He gives us some size. He had a real good presence and played the right side for us and did some good things."
Hjalmarsson is a big loss at a time when the Hawks' defensive play has faltered in numerous ways. The 24-year-old is their leading shot-blocker and a top penalty killer. It very unlikely he rejoins the team Saturday for their game against the Coyotes.
(Image source: Getty Images)