Hjalmarsson mum on suspension, outspoken about Blackhawks defensive depth

CHICAGO - If you were hoping to hear more on Niklas Hjalmarsson's lengthy suspension, you're out of luck.

"I said everything I had to say yesterday in my hearing. It's always disappointing to miss one regular season game. I'm glad Rattie's fine. I said everything I had to say yesterday, so that's all I'm going to say about that."

Unfortunately, everything the Blackhawks veteran defenseman had to say at his hearing is not for public record.

However, Hjalmarsson was more than willing to weigh in on the Blackhawks newfound defensive depth.

"This is probably the deepest D core group we've had since I've been in this organization. I think it's good for everybody. I think it's good for us who have been here for awhile too. Maybe push each other even harder to not feel as safe to have those big minutes, to push ourselves toward getting better and keep feeling the pressure from behind."

And he wasn't the only one praising the bolstered back line.

"I agree with him," said head coach Joel Quenneville. "I know , as a staff, we're looking and we've got eight guys on the board there. We feel all eight guys can play. We feel all eight guys can play against the best players on the other team. Thats's something we've probably never thought about or had that type of comfort level."

One of those defensemen will get his first crack at the preseason.

Quenneville says Duncan Keith is scheduled to play tonight against the Red Wings and should be available for the regular season opener despite lingering knee issues.