NEW YORK — Tyler Johnson underwent neck surgery on Friday and is expected to be out approximately three months, the Blackhawks announced. "After trying to manage his neck pain conservatively for the past couple of weeks, Tyler underwent neck surgery today," team physician Michael Terry said in a statement. "The prognosis is good and his anticipated return to play is approximately three months."
Johnson suffered the injury on Oct. 29 against the Carolina Hurricanes after taking a cross-check from Vincent Trocheck, who was penalized on the play. Johnson has been out of the lineup since.
The Blackhawks originally labeled the injury as "neck soreness," but the longer his absence, the more concerning it got. He reportedly had artificial disk replacement surgery, which is the same one Jack Eichel recently had. They are believed to be the only two NHL players to have this surgery done.
"To my knowledge — I'm not a doctor, believe me — but they tried different procedures, it wasn’t getting what they wanted out of them, so this was the next step," interim head coach Derek King said. "They decided this was what was best for him and his career and Tyler."
It's an unfortunate blow for the Blackhawks, whose success on the power play has dropped off significantly since he left the lineup. Johnson played an important role in the bumper spot and the team hasn't been able to find a permanent replacement yet.
"It's big," Patrick Kane said of the loss to Johnson. "I know I talked about it before, but he was really good in that middle spot on the power play and also just a lot of speed and energy to our lineup. I didn't really know what the length of it was going to be or what was going to happen, but that's tough to hear. Hopefully he'll get better soon and be able to come back better than ever."
Johnson, 31, has three points (one goal, two assists) in eight games with the Blackhawks this season. If all goes well, we could be looking at a return date sometime in March.
"Coming here as a new player, fresh start and this happens," King said. "I feel for him. Obviously we'd love to have him on the team and in the lineup, he would help us, but he's got to do what's best for Tyler and we'll back him up on the decision he makes.
"It's major, but he'll be fine and he'll just work his way back. And who knows? Sometimes you recover quicker than you think, but he's got a lot of hockey left in him."