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Will the league punish Niklas Hjalmarsson?

BUFFALO -- Niklas Hjalmarsson is going to hear from the league, there is no question about that. The only question is: should he receive further punishment for a hit from behind that sent Buffalo Sabres’ winger Jason Pominville into the boards and onto a stretcher with a concussion?

“Everything happened so fast, but I thought it was shoulder to shoulder,” a dejected Hjalmarsson said after the 4-3 win by the Hawks on Monday. “My intention wasn’t to hurt him and I heard our doctor said he was up walking so that’s a big relief.”

As the puck was coming towards Pominville along the boards inside the Sabres’ zone, Hjalmarsson hit him from behind. Pominville’s head crashed into the boards and he stayed down on the ice for several minutes.

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville was hopeful the league wouldn’t come down hard on Hjalmarrson.

“You could argue if it was even a penalty,” Quenneville said. “He wasn’t looking at the guy, [he] was playing the puck. He was compromised. But the hit, there was no intent at all.”

It’s doubtful the league will look at it the same way, though Hjalmarsson’s unblemished history will play a big part if there is any further punishment.

“Hammer is a fair player,” Jonathan Toews said. “You know, he’s smart. He doesn’t do anything reckless out there. He plays really hard so you obviously know he didn’t mean to do that. Sometimes bad things happen.”

Hjalmarsson was ready to spend a few minutes in the penalty box but then the referees told him his night was over.

“It’s tough to say,” Hjalmarsson said. “I didn’t think I was going to be kicked out of the game but it is what it is. The decision is in the league’s hands now. It’s a fast game out there.”

Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff was sympathetic for Hjalmarsson but didn’t let him off the hook.

“He’s not that type of player, but he made a mistake, obviously,” Ruff said. “He made a big mistake. He caught a player in a tough spot. It’ll be addressed.”