Things could get really ugly on Saturday night in the Windy City when the Buffalo Sabres face the Chicago Blackhawks for the second time this season.
In a remarkable coincidence, the game will mark the return of defenceman Niklas Hjalmarsson to the Blackhawks' lineup after receiving a two-game suspension for his hit on Jason Pominville that left the Sabres' forward nursing a concussion.
While Hjalmarsson has apologized for his actions and has no history of transgressions with the league, the fact that he only received a two-game suspension did not sit well with many of the Sabres; especially when they did not know how long they would be without Pominville's services.
''If I had to play commissioner, I would have went more,'' Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff told the Buffalo News. ''Two games isn't a long time sitting in their case. They play a couple games this week and it's over in three days.''
Sabres all-star netminder Ryan Miller was firm, yet level-headed, in his statements following the hit saying that the NHL should come down hard on Hjalmarsson while teammate Patrick Kaleta was not so diplomatic when discussing the incident with the Buffalo News prior to the announcement of the NHL's decision.
''It'll get taken care of either with the league or I think we play them Saturday, so we'll make a point that you can't be taking hits like that against one of our leaders and one of the better players on our team.''
While Kaleta did not put an outright bounty on the head of Hjalmarsson, the NHL cannot be happy with the notion that the Sabres will be seeking a measure of revenge on the Hawks defenceman Saturday night.
Sabres captain Craig Rivet tried to downplay the notion of revenge.
''I'm sure the next game is going to be heated,'' Rivet told the Buffalo News. ''The most important part is to get the two points. We'll see what happens.''
Miller was once again the voice of reason, stressing the importance of beating the Hawks on the scoreboard as opposed to the alley-ways.
''I don't think we should go head-hunting. I don't think we should do something stupid. Just go play hard. The best thing we can do right now is establish our game and not get caught up in the trivial stuff, the side stuff. We've got bigger things going on. Worry about playing hockey the way we want to play. It's going to be an element of the hockey game I'm sure.''
Still, Miller did not expect the game to get too out of hand.
''People will be talking about it and there will be some emotion surrounding it but you're not going to condone a donnybrook and go old-school or whatever your guys are talking about. I'd like to think the game has evolved a little bit.''