GLENDALE, Ariz. — The Blackhawks were decimated by injuries during the first half of the season and most of them were key pieces to the puzzle, particularly on the back end, which included Duncan Keith, Connor Murphy and season-ending injuries to Calvin de Haan and Brent Seabrook.
But the Blackhawks are starting to get healthy at the perfect time.
Drake Caggiula missed 27 games with a concussion and has five points (three goals, two assists) in seven games since returning to the lineup. Brandon Saad, who missed 12 games with a right ankle sprain, also came back before the NHL All-Star break and didn't skip a beat, scoring two goals in three games.
And now they're hoping for the same from Dylan Strome, who practiced with the team on Thursday in Arizona for the first time since suffering a right ankle sprain on Jan. 7 that's forced him to miss seven games. It’s unclear whether he’ll play on Saturday against the Coyotes, but it’s a positive sign that he was a full participant.
“I think a game’s a lot different than a practice,” Strome said. “Try to push it pretty hard tomorrow. Felt pretty good out there, did a lot of skating. It’s an injury where you just don’t want to make it worse. I tried to skate a few times after it happened and didn’t really help it. Felt OK to walk on, but the skating's just a different story. Took some time off, got the right treatment, feels pretty good now so happy about that.”
Strome initially thought he broke his leg on the play. But the MRI showed no structural damage and it was ruled by team doctors as a sprain, which was a huge sigh of relief for Strome, who admitted "I hate missing games more than anyone."
"I got lucky," he said. "There's no way around it. You see Dougie Hamilton [who suffered a fractured fibula two weeks ago], it's pretty much the same thing that happened to him. I got lucky. Whatever it was, it just didn't feel good right when it happened. ... It felt like something wasn't right. I was walking around with my stuff off right after it happened. Tried to push on it and see if I could go back out there. I was limping pretty good. Obviously the right thing to stay off it and recover."
Fortunately for the Blackhawks, Strome should be back in the lineup soon to help balance out the four-line rotation as they look to climb back into the playoff race.
The lengthy break may not have come at an opportune time from the standpoint the Blackhawks have won 11 of their past 16 games and five of their last six, but it allowed the players an opportunity to heal up and that's probably the most important part. Now it's picking up where they left off.
"Our focus is to try and find that rhythm again," Jonathan Toews said. "It's like anything you do, you take yourself out of something you've been doing every day for months and months, you kind of let your hair down a little bit and the wind goes out of the sails a little bit. So, just got to find a way.
"It's nice that we have today's practice and tomorrow to get our bodies ready and our mind back in the grind to be ready because we know it's going to be a tough game Saturday. Arizona's having a couple games before that, so they'll be ready too, but we don't want to miss a beat getting back at it."
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