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updated: 5/7/2014 11:57 PM

Blackhawks' Hjalmarsson just keeps battling

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By Brian Hedger
Special to the Daily Herald

It's still a struggle for Blackhawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson to speak, but he didn't let that hinder him Tuesday night in Minnesota.

Hjalmarsson played 17:12 in Game 3, a 4-0 Hawks loss, while wearing a Kevlar protector around his neck. His ability to communicate verbally was severely limited after being struck in the throat area by the puck Sunday in Game 2.

Hjalmarsson absorbed another painful shot Tuesday with his left skate but again stayed in the game.

"He's a warrior and he's been blocking a lot of shots his whole career here," Patrick Kane said. "I think I heard him yell a few times (Tuesday) night, so maybe that's the energy of the game or the adrenaline that you get from playing, but it's a different situation getting hit in the neck.

"He came out, did what he had to do, still played great, still did what he does for our team."

Hjalmarsson didn't do much penalty killing, but he still blocked 4 shots to push his total for the playoffs to 34, good for the top spot in the NHL.

"I don't know if you get surprised or not," Johnny Oduya said of his defense partner's ability to overcome painful puck strikes. "Sometimes (you're amazed), but you wonder what goes through his mind when he gets hit with pucks like that."

Oduya said Hjalmarsson's silence isn't an issue.

"No, I think we're pretty comfortable," he said. "Obviously there might be times where a quick callout or something would help out a little bit, but mostly I know where he is."

Still questionable:

After missing back-to-back games, Hawks forward Andrew Shaw hasn't been cleared yet to return for Game 4 on Friday at Xcel Energy Center.

Shaw was injured midway through the first period of Game 1 when Wild defenseman Clayton Stoner checked him into the boards. Stoner's knee appeared to collide with Shaw's left knee during the hit.

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said it's still "to be determined" if Shaw can return Friday.

Asked if the scrappy forward was making progress, Quenneville said, "He's been OK. It's tough to say right now."

Brookbank over Leddy:

Joel Quenneville didn't budge on his reason for making defenseman Nick Leddy a surprise healthy scratch for Game 3 in front of his family and friends, instead playing Sheldon Brookbank.

"Going into that building, I thought Brooksie, physically, probably gives us a little bit more," the coach said. "We felt it was going to be a hard game. (He) played important minutes (against St. Louis) and played against some top lines, as well.

"We were comfortable with the move, and I thought he played pretty well."

Brookbank didn't record a point, but had a shot on goal and a blocked shot in 12:16.

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