Blackhawks top prospect Lukas Reichel was removed from concussion protocol on Tuesday morning, the Rockford IceHogs announced. He also joined the team for practice and appears on track to return during their weekend tilt against the Texas Stars.
"I feel great," Reichel said. "I'm happy to be back. I'm really excited to get going again."
It's encouraging news for Reichel, who had been sidelined since Nov. 28 after taking a hit along the boards from Milwaukee Admirals defenseman Matt Donovan. He left the ice needing assistance from a teammate and the athletic trainer.
Prior to the injury, Reichel was one of Rockford's best players. He leads the team in goals (five) and points (12) in 15 games and will likely resume his role as the top-line center and driver of the first power-play unit.
The Blackhawks will probably give Reichel a look at some point this season, but there's no rush in doing so.
"It's great," Blackhawks interim head coach Derek King said of the news. "He's going to be a big part of this organization down the road, but he needs to get back playing. If there's ever a chance, maybe he does get a call-up or a game, but if that's going to happen, he's got to be up and running and hitting his stride at the right time."
Brett Connolly is back
At the beginning of the season, the Blackhawks placed Connolly on waivers and sent him to Rockford after he cleared. It would've been easy for a player like him — a Stanley Cup champion and somebody that's played 500-plus games in the NHL — to have a sour attitude about the assignment. But that's not in his DNA.
"To be honest, I’ve had some experience, a little bit, when I was younger, not the same situation but going down when maybe you think that you shouldn’t have," Connolly said. "But I definitely was not going to be that guy that went down there. It’s not my personality, it’s not [how] I wanted to represent myself. I just wanted to go down there and work my ass off and get back up here and be a positive influence on those guys and try to be the best player every night."
And most nights, he was. Connolly played on a line with Reichel but certainly did his part to make an impression.
"He's been one of the best players," King said. "He was one of the best players when I was still there. He's just a good pro."
Connolly registered five goals and six assists for 11 points in 16 games with Rockford. He skated on the second line with Brandon Hagel and Jonathan Toews during Tuesday's practice and even took some reps on the first power-play unit in the bumper role.
"Very, very, very excited to be back," Connolly said. "It’s obviously where everybody wants to be. Just excited to get going. Very grateful for another opportunity and just looking to make the most of it. I put in the work down there and hopefully it will translate in a few days."
- Jujhar Khaira, who's in concussion protocol, has been around the team the last few days after being stretchered off the ice on Dec. 7. King said he "looks good" but obviously he's not close to returning yet: "It's just nice to have him around. The guys were excited to see him, that he's up and moving around pretty good. It's going to take some time, but we'll follow the protocol and makes sure he's ready to go when the time is right."
- Newly acquired forward Kurtis Gabriel is working through "immigration stuff," which is why he hasn't practiced with the team the last couple of days.
- Henrik Borgstrom remains sidelined with a non-COVID-19-related illness: "He's got bad shrimp," King joked. "It must've been a bad shrimp, I'll tell ya that."
- Reese Johnson was placed on injured reserve over the weekend after suffering a fractured right clavicle. The Blackhawks will know more about his timeline in the next day or two.