The Blackhawks have been crushed by injuries this season, but they got some encouraging news this week.
Brandon Saad and Dylan Strome are both back on the ice after being sidelined by right ankle injuries and participated in the first part of practice on Monday, which was an optional skills session that lasted about 25 minutes. They skated on their own for roughly 15 minutes before that also but did not practice with the team for their standard scheduled session.
Saad suffered his right ankle injury on Dec. 19 against the Winnipeg Jets and has missed 10 games so far. Strome was injured on Tuesday against Calgary and has been sidelined for the last two games.
But when could Saad and Strome make their return to the lineup?
Head coach Jeremy Colliton said he doesn't expect Saad and Strome to travel with the Blackhawks on their upcoming three-game road trip, but that was before he spoke to team doctors post-practice. The Blackhawks reassigned John Quenneville to the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League but did not make a corresponding move, meaning they will take 12 healthy forwards on the trip if Saad and Strome don't join.
Saad was put on a three-week timetable on Dec. 26, but it appears his absence will stretch beyond that. Colliton said on Saturday that it's possible Saad won't return until after the NHL All-Star break. The Blackhawks have five games remaining until their 10-day hiatus, so they could use that extra time to make sure Saad is fully healthy and ready to go for the first game back on Feb. 1.
As for Strome, it looks like he's closer to returning than Saad, but the Blackhawks are being careful with him too. It would be surprising if he wasn't cleared to play before the Blackhawks' final game before the break on Jan. 21 against the Florida Panthers, considering he was put on a "day to day" timeline.
Saad has been one of the Blackhawks’ most consistent forward this season. He's tied for third on the team with 11 goals and has been a possession machine, no matter where he’s been slotted in the lineup.
Kirby Dach has filled in nicely for Strome on the second line, but the Blackhawks certainly liked the balance they had in their lineup with Strome in.
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