BUFFALO, N.Y. – A day after watching teammate Jason Pominville carted off the ice on a stretcher, Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller urged the NHL on Tuesday to “change the culture” and send a message that blind-side hits are not acceptable.
Barely able to contain his anger, Miller described Niklas Hjalmarsson’s hit as a “dumb hockey play.” He said it made no difference whether the Chicago Blackhawks’ defenseman said it wasn’t his intention to hurt anyone.
The Vezina Trophy-winning goalie said Hjalmarsson should be severely punished if the league wants to show it’s serious in outlawing hits on defenseless players.
“You can’t have a hit like that, it’s dangerous,” Miller said after practice. “I’m glad he admitted he didn’t mean to do it. But you’ve got to change the culture some time, and I hope the league wakes up and sets a precedent for the year.”
Miller said “something’s got to be done” and encouraged reporters to quote him because he felt it’s the only way to “hold the league accountable.”
Hjalmarsson drew a 5-minute major and a game misconduct for checking Pominville from behind and into the boards late in the first period of Chicago’s 4-3 victory.
The NHL held a hearing with Hjalmarsson on Tuesday to determine whether further punishment is warranted. The league said a decision will be announced before the Blackhawks host Nashville today.
Pominville is out indefinitely and was resting at home after still experiencing concussion symptoms.
He’s a top-line and versatile forward, who plays on both power-play and penalty-killing units, but had yet to register a point in three games this season.
The Sabres host New Jersey today, beginning a stretch of three games in four nights that ends in Chicago. Sabres agitator Patrick Kaleta was quick to note that the two teams will meet again this weekend.
“I think it’ll get taken care of either with the league or, I think, when we play them Saturday,” he said. “We’ll make a point that you can’t be taking hits like that against one of our leaders.”
Pominville was injured after skating backward along the sideboard in the Sabres end, waiting for the puck to reach him. Hjalmarsson hit him just behind the right shoulder. Pominville was sent face-first into the boards and crumpled to the ice.
He was carted off after a 15-minute delay, giving a thumbs-up sign to the quieted arena. Pominville spent the rest of the game being treated and monitored.