A scary scene unfolded at the United Center on Tuesday night as Blackhawks forward Jujhar Khaira left the ice on a stretcher after taking a high hit from New York Rangers defenseman Jacob Trouba.
According to the Blackhawks, Khaira was "taken by ambulance to Northwestern Hospital for further testing" after an initial evaluation on the ice. Interim head coach Derek King provided an early positive report after the game.
"He’s up, he’s talking, he’s very responsive," King said. "I think he wants to get back on the ice. He’s done some tests already, as far as what the doc told me, but he has some more tests to be done. We won’t know the extent of the injury until after these tests. He’s still at the hospital right now, but he’s talking, he’s coherent, I guess. It’s a scary situation to see."
The incident occurred at the 6:10 mark of the second period. Khaira had his head down while trying to find the puck at his skates and Trouba laid a big shoulder into Khaira and caught his chin. The principal point of contact will be debated, but no penalty was assessed on the play.
Khaira was knocked out cold and laid on the ice for several minutes before he was wheeled off in a stretcher.
Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews appeared emotionally distraught in his postgame interview. He was one of the first ones that jumped on the ice to notify the medical staff of the severity of the situation.
"Personally, I was pretty shaken," Toews said. "I’m not going to lie to you. Just glad to hear he’s doing OK. It sucks that happens sometimes."
The Blackhawks didn't want to use it as an excuse, but it certainly had to be difficult for the players to mentally regroup after the hit.
"A little bit," Toews said. "I think we were trying to find that emotion to respond the right way. [Riley Stillman] answered that. We could’ve had a better response as a team, but yeah, I think the guys felt that one a little bit. Obviously we wanted to win for Jujhar, but that was not the response we were looking for."
It was a 2-2 game going into the third period, but the Rangers eventually scored four unanswered goals, including an empty-netter, and took the wind out of Chicago's sails. The Blackhawks just couldn't find that extra pushback, and it's difficult to blame them after what happened to their teammate.
"It's hard," King said. "I can't say just go run around with our heads cut off, right? We've got to try to get this win for him and try to play the game the right way, so I've got to try to be a little motivated for them, get them a little like let's keep this under control and go and play. But we just couldn't climb back."