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Arizona Coyotes sweating on status of Niklas Hjalmarsson

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The veteran defenceman left the game in Colorado after blocking a shot.

Vegas Golden Knights v Arizona Coyotes Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Arizona Coyotes are awaiting further news on Niklas Hjalmarsson’s injury, but it’s looking as if the veteran blueliner could be out for a while.

The 32-year-old defenceman blocked a strong shot from Colorado Avalanche’s Erik Johnson during the first period of a 3-2 OT loss.

Hjalmarsson was unable to return to the game after leaving the ice in noticeable pain and now it looks as if the extent of the injury is far worse than the Coyotes would have hoped for.

According to The Athletic’s Craig Morgan, Hjalmarsson was spotted leaving the Pepsi Center on crutches and isn’t likely to travel with the team to Winnipeg as a result of his valiant defensive effort.

In post-game interviews with head coach Rick Tocchet, it was stated that the belief is Hjalmarsson’s injury won’t be classified as ‘day-to-day’, suggesting that it could see him miss a significant period of time.

Losing Hjalmarsson is a huge blow for the Coyotes, who rely heavily on a sturdy defensive performance under the guidance of Tocchet, with the left-handed blueliner known for his shot-blocking efforts, with 308 since arriving in the desert just three seasons ago.

The loss of one of the team’s most reliable players and leaders both on and off the ice could have a significant impact in the early stage of the season.

But it does provide Ilya Lyubushkin with an opportunity to get minutes under his belt, with the big-bodied Russian receiving a call-up to the NHL roster after a brief stint with the Tucson Roadrunners in the AHL.

Lyubushkin, who stacks up at 6-foot-2, 201 lbs, plays a physical game that may do something to off-set the absence of Hjalmarsson.

Had the 25-year-old played a full 82-game season last year, he would have finished in fourth place on the team in blocked shots if he maintained his pace - sitting behind Hjalmarsson, Alex Goligoski, and Jordan Oesterle.

It should be noted that with 61 hits in 41 games, Lyubushkin actually finished in sixth place on the team.

While he is not at the same level as Hjalmarsson, having Lyubushkin available may help the Arizona Coyotes manage the loss until the three-time Stanley Cup champion can return to the line-up.

The hope will be that Hjalmarsson can return in a few weeks, but the organization will be sweating on further news as to the full extent of his injury.