The Blackhawks received some positive news on Monday when Kirby Dach cleared the next hurdle in his recovery process by practicing with the team before joining them on their six-game road trip.
Dach suffered a right wrist fracture in Team Canada's lone exhibition game at the IIHF World Junior Championship and underwent surgery on Dec. 28. His four-to-five-month timetable put his 2020-21 NHL season in doubt, but the 20-year-old center appears to be ahead of schedule, even though the Blackhawks cautioned he's still got "a ways to go" before being cleared for action.
On Wednesday, Dach spoke to the Chicago media for the first time since the surgery and provided an update on how he's progressing.
"It's good to be back," said Dach, who's skating with the taxi squad. "It's been a long time coming, obviously. I've been doing my own thing for a little bit, so to be around the group, be around the camaraderie with the guys, it's nice to have that bit of it back. But at the same time, I know there's still a long road ahead I need to get to to be able to play again."
Dach has been skating for more than a month now and staying active by riding the bike, which has allowed him to keep his cardio levels up. He's pleasantly surprised at how quickly his wrist has recovered, but admitted he still experiences soreness and won't be cleared for contact until it's fully healed.
"Obviously a little bit ahead of schedule and I think that's a good thing," Dach said. "But at the same time we've got to be smart with it because we don't want this issue for the long term. Deal with it now and hopefully we can move on and I’m 100 percent for the rest of the career, knock on wood. I feel good. I don't think there's anything that bothers it right now. It's just more-so getting my timing back and being ready to play."
When asked whether he had any regrets about participating in the tournament, Dach was quick to put all that to rest.
"It’s the game of hockey," Dach said. "I could’ve gotten hurt skating in the summer skating with my buddies. I don't have any regrets going to World Juniors. I've got to say thank you to Stan [Bowman] and the management group and everybody that was involved in that decision to let me go play. They didn't have to, but as a Canadian kid, you grew up dreaming about playing for that team and it was even better to wear the 'C' for that team.
"You see that group of guys go out there and battle every night. It was tough sitting on the couch and watching knowing I could be out there helping. But I don't have any regrets going."
It's unclear when Dach will return to game action for the Blackhawks, but the fact he's starting to get reintegrated into the equation indicates the plan is for him to be available for the stretch run. And getting him back would essentially be a free trade deadline acquisition for the Blackhawks.
"I don’t think I’m surprised," Dach said of the team's success. "We've got a lot of young guys that have a lot of confidence and play the game well. It looks like a fun hockey team to be a part of, and I think that's a big thing that I just want to come back and contribute to the success that, as a team, we're having right now."