BUFFALO, N.Y. – Buffalo Sabres right-winger Jason Pominville was carted off on a stretcher after being hit into the boards from behind by Chicago defenceman Niklas Hjalmarsson in the first period of the Blackhawks’ 4-3 win over Buffalo on Monday night.
Pominville sustained a concussion and a gash above his eye that required 7-8 stitches. He was diagnosed in the building without going to a hospital.
With 5:42 remaining in the opening period, Pominville was skating toward the puck near the right boards in the Buffalo zone 20 feet inside the blue line when Hjalmarsson sent him flying into the boards, causing his head to hit the glass violently.
“Everything happened so fast,” Hjalmarsson said. “My intention wasn’t to hurt him. You never want to see someone laying on the ice like that.”
For 15 minutes Pominville didn’t move while on his back on the ice as emergency medical personnel and Sabres trainers slipped a flat board underneath him to get him on the stretcher, and his head and neck were stabilized. While he was wheeled off he was alert, moved his right arm and was seen talking.
“It was a terrible hit,” Sabres left-winger Thomas Vanek said. “It was to the head and from behind, but (Hjalmarsson’s) not a dirty player.”
Hjalmarsson, who emerged as one of Chicago’s top defencemen last season, was given a five-minute major for boarding and a game misconduct on the play.
“To me, you could argue that it (wasn’t) even a penalty,” Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. “I don’t want to see anybody go down and get hurt like that, but (Hjalmarsson) wasn’t even looking at the guy, he was playing the puck. There was no intent at all on the hit.”
Sabres coach Lindy Ruff didn’t want to speculate on whether or not the Blackhawks defenceman will be suspended.
“It’ll be interesting,” he said. “(Hjalmarsson) made a big mistake. He caught a player in a tough spot.”
Pominville entered the game as the team’s active leader in consecutive games played with 335.
“Poms has been our iron man,” Ruff said. “You’re just praying that everything’s OK.”