When Niklas Hjalmarsson did not return to Saturday night’s game against the Colorado Avalanche after blocking a shot, Arizona Coytes’ players, executives, and fans held their collective breaths that he hadn’t suffered a serious injury. Unfortunately, he has. The Athletic’s Craig Morgan reports that Hjalmarsson has a cracked fibula in his left leg. Morgan adds that recovery time is expected to be three months, meaning Hjalmarsson is done for the calendar year.
Visiting Colorado on Saturday, Hjalmarsson went to knee to block a shot from Erik Johnson. His left leg, which rested on the ice, took the full force of the howitzer from his Avalanche counterpart. Hjalmarsson skated off under his own power, but was clearly in pain. He went directly to the locker room and did not return. Prior to the revelation of the extent of his injury, the team recalled Kyle Capobianco, which implied that Hjalmarsson was prepared to miss some time. However, Morgan calls this three-month timelines the Coyotes’ worst fear.
It goes without saying that Hjalmarsson would be a major loss for any team. One of the more poised and consistent defensive defensemen in the whole league, Hjalmarsson has an omnipresent effect when he is on the ice and can be relied upon for perfect positioning, timely clears and outlets, and of course clutch shot-blocking. Yet, for Arizona in particular, this is a major blow. Expected to take a step forward this season, the ‘Yotes are out to a 1-2-1 start and have the league’s most anemic offense. While Hjalmarsson is a defensive specialist, his dependability allows other defenders to jump in on offense and creates a sense of calm when he is on the ice that contributes to more offensive focus. The Coyotes could hardly afford this setback as they look to get off to a good start in their pursuit of a return to the playoffs. Instead, they will have to deal with this loss well into January at the earliest. It’s another stroke of bad luck, as the long-time Chicago Blackhawk is now in his third season with the Coyotes, but it will be his second missing a large chunk of the season due to injury. Expect GM John Chayka and company to try replacing Hjalmarsson internally at first, but don’t be surprised if they look elsewhere for help if the losses continue to mount.