Kirby Dach has been sidelined with a concussion since Sept. 10, but he's been practicing with the team for a couple weeks now and is inching closer to making his NHL debut. But when will that come?
The Blackhawks have made it clear that their No. 3 overall pick won't return until he's 100 percent, but he doesn't appear to be physically restricted at this point. It's really about getting him into game shape and feeling sharp enough to play at the highest level.
"I think we would like to get him up to speed a little more, get him back home here," coach Jeremy Colliton said after Monday's practice. "Today was a good full practice for him. It's tough over there [in Europe]. We did practice, [but] it wasn't the high intensity, at least all the days that we would like to get him back up to [speed]. We want to give him the best opportunity to step right in and help us."
That opportunity isn't likely to come in Thursday's home opener against the San Jose Sharks, which Colliton hinted at on Monday. But with seven consecutive home games on the slate, you have to figure Dach will appear in one sooner than later.
"You don't really want to be sitting out this long and be hurt," Dach said. "But at the same time it's an uncontrollable. I just got to do what I can do get back in the lineup and focus from that standpoint."
After Thursday's game, the Blackhawks host Winnipeg on Saturday, Edmonton on Monday, Oct. 14 and then have a three-day break before welcoming Columbus to town on Friday, Oct. 18. It would be surprising if the Blue Jackets game passed and Dach still found himself waiting to get in.
"Training camp would have been a perfect opportunity for him to slowly ramp up and get used to the level that he's going to need to be at to help us," Colliton said. "So we're just trying to make the best of it as far as the practice reps but also the reps after practice, doing 1-on-1s, doing battles and challenging him defensively. When you miss that much time, that sharpness that you need to succeed, we want to make sure he has it."
Dach, respectfully, left a possible return date up to the team, but sounded like someone just waiting for the green light.
"I feel pretty good," Dach said. "I mean it's obviously not my decision to say if I want to be out there with the guys playing in games, but it's my job to force the hand of the coaching staff, the management to make that decision hard. So I've just got to keep coming to the rink every day and work hard."