Latest blindside hit stirs Hawks' memories
- Photos (1)
Montreal Canadiens' Lars Eller is taken off the ice Thursday following a hit by Ottawa Senators' Eric Gryba during second period play in Montreal. Eller suffered a concussion and facial fractures.
AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Graham Hughes
The sight of Montreal's Lars Eller being wheeled off the ice on a stretcher Thursday night from a blindside hit by Ottawa's Eric Gryba brought back bad memories for the Blackhawks.
It was in last spring's playoffs that the Hawks lost Marian Hossa against Phoenix on a hit by Raffi Torres.
While the two plays were different, the end result was still the same.
Eller was looking back for a pass from teammate Raphael Diaz when Gryba creamed him at the blue line. Eller suffered a broken nose, several other facial fractures and lost several teeth. Hossa suffered a concussion.
Patrick Sharp thought it was a good hit even though the NHL suspended Gryba two games on Friday for an illegal hit to the head.
"The Ottawa guy kept his shoulder in and waited until he touched the puck," Sharp said. "It was a clean hit."
Jonathan Toews could see it argued both ways.
"You can debate both sides whether it was a dirty hit or not," Toews said. "For the most part, it looked like (Gryba) was trying to make contact with his body and not severely injure the player so I think there was an effort there.
"Obviously the outcome is not what anybody wanted to see, but as long as that effort is there. Players still want to be physical, but there's some respect there. It's a fast game, you've got to keep your head up and you've got to make sure you don't put yourself in vulnerable positions like that. I'm sure there were a few mistakes made on both sides."
Niklas Backstrom took part in the morning skate for the Minnesota Wild on Friday, but it was Josh Harding getting the call to start Game 2.
Backstrom remained out with a lower body injury.
How did that affect the Hawks' scouting report?
"One's a righty and one's a lefty," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said jokingly. "That's the differential. They're both capable and have played meaningful games."
Harding, who catches with his right hand, made 35 saves in Game 1 after learning just before faceoff that he would start because Backstrom was injured in warm-ups.
"For him, there were a lot of positives to take out of the game," Wild coach Mike Yeo said. "I think as much as anything else it's the confidence of going out and playing well in a game like that. It's not like he hasn't played good hockey before."
Picking it up:
Both teams were looking forward to seeing a better pace in Game 2.
"We expect them, like us, to want to play a better game than last time," Jonathan Toews said. "We'll probably see more of a playoff pace."
Mike Yeo was calling for his Wild to be more physical.
"I think that serves us well," Yeo said. "We're comfortable playing in those types of games. Certainly against a team like that, if we can get engaged in a game like that I think it helps us."
Joel Quenneville wanted to see his team use its speed more.
"There's a pace we need to get to, to be a better team, especially come playoff time," Quenneville said. "Everybody needs to pick up the pace."
The key behind Joel Quenneville switching up his defense pairings on March 31 was to get Duncan Keith with Niklas Hjalmarsson and Brent Seabrook with Nick Leddy — that left Johnny Oduya and Michal Rozsival to play together.
"Leftovers? Interesting way of putting it — that's a pretty good leftover pair," Quenneville said. "We felt the balance was in place and we'd be able to get something from all three pairs."
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