Niklas Hjalmarsson D CHI 5 Months

Niklas Hjalmarsson, who has been a rock on the Blackhawk blueline, believes that the Western Conference finals had to be decided by a Game 7.

Hjalmarsson is looking forward to Sunday's contest indicating this is why he plays hockey. "I really think this series deserved a Game 7, and I think the crowd deserved it, too. And I think it's going to be a great finish to a great series," Hjalmarsson said. "Hopefully we'll be the winner out of this one, but it's been some really good hockey that's been playing in these games, definitely." As we've said before, don't miss this one. It starts at 8:00 pm ET.

Niklas Hjalmarsson D CHI 5 Months

If we asked you which of the current Chicago defensemen has played the most post-season games we imagine Niklas Hjalmarsson would not be your answer.

Most might have said Duncan Keith or perhaps Brent Seabrook. Well, as you might have guessed by now, Hjalmarsson is the correct answer. The underated rearguard has 89 playoff games under his belt to Keith's 88 and Seabrook's 84. Typical of Hjalmarsson, he is under the radar once again.

Niklas Hjalmarsson D CHI 5 Months

Niklas Hjalmarsson (throat) is healthy enough to talk now.

Hjalmarsson has been playing regardless. He sustained the injury when he was struck by the puck in the throat on May 4. Despite that, he leads the league with 42 blocked shots in 13 playoff games.

Niklas Hjalmarsson D CHI 5 Months

Niklas Hjalmarsson is tied for fourth in blocked shots in the playoffs.

He can take over the lead today with three blocks as he trails Daniel Girardi and Johnny Boychuk by two and Alexei Emelin by one. All three either are out of the playoffs (Boychuk) or not playing today (Girardi and Emelin. Hjalmarsson has been solid defensively despite a minus-three rating and has three assists in 12 playoff games.

Niklas Hjalmarsson D CHI 6 Months

Niklas Hjalmarsson (throat) missed Chicago's Friday morning skate.

Hjalmarsson is still expected to play on Friday, according the Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville. This was Hjalmarsson's second straight day off the ice, but given that he was struck in the throat by the puck hard enough that he's not supposed to speak, it's not surprising that he's resting when he gets the chance.

Niklas Hjalmarsson D CHI 6 Months

Johnny Oduya doesn't think that the fact that Niklas Hjalmarsson couldn't speak during Tuesday's game was a big disadvantage.

Oduya is Hjalmarsson's defensive partner. "Obviously, there might be times where a quick callout or something would help out a little bit, but mostly I know where he is," Oduya said. "I can still help him out and talk to him." Hjalmarsson was struck in the throat by the puck in Game 2, but he still managed to play 17:12 minutes in Game 3.

Niklas Hjalmarsson D CHI 6 Months

Niklas Hjalmarsson logged 17:12 of ice time in Game 3 despite not being medically cleared to speak.

He was struck in the throat by a puck in Game 2 on Sunday. Hjalmarsson probably sustained a fractured larynx on the play, but he didn't miss a shift. Aside from the obvious pain he is playing through, not being able to communicate on the ice is also an issue that he had to deal with. "There are some times you'd like to have some communication with your partner, with a goalie, line changes, who's up and not, who's got who," coach Joel Quenneville said. "But he's a smart guy, and I think he's pretty familiar with his partner, the goalie, those situations. And we'll see how they adapt around the changes, how that plays out." Hjalmarsson has three assists and 34 blocks in nine 2014 postseason games.

Niklas Hjalmarsson D CHI 6 Months

Niklas Hjalmarsson isn't supposed to speak after being struck in the throat by the puck on Sunday.

Despite that, Hjalmarsson will still play in Game 3 on Tuesday. He has three assists in eight playoff games.

Niklas Hjalmarsson D CHI 6 Months

If you are looking for an unsung hero from the Blackawks' 3-2 overtime win over the Blues Friday night, take a look at what Niklas Hjalmarsson did in the game.

He blocked six shots, giving him 11 for the series and played a very solid defense in his 23:58 of playing time. Guys like Hjalmarsson don't get much press, but the stay-at-home rearguard surely deserves a lot of credit for the Hawks' big victory Friday night.

Niklas Hjalmarsson D CHI 8 Months

Niklas Hjalmarsson finally feels back to normal after returning from the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

"I started feeling normal again (Wednesday)," Hjalmarsson said. "It's been the same thing for most of the other guys, too, so I can't complain, but it's been an adjustment. I haven't been sleeping as much as you want." The timezone change and travel will impact everyone differently. Hjalmarsson won a silver medal with Sweden at the Winter Games.