Blackhawks

After months of rehab, Michal Rozsival almost back for Blackhawks

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After months of rehab, Michal Rozsival almost back for Blackhawks

For Michal Rozsival, Thursday carries some significance on his long road to recovery.

“I would like to think I’m a quick healer, but obviously the time was something in between four to six months, and I think it’s going to be six months tomorrow since the surgery. So I think I’m right on time with it,” Rozsival said with a smile.

He’s right: Rozsival had surgery to repair his left ankle, fractured in the Blackhawks’ final playoff game against the Minnesota Wild, on May 12. The hard part is just about over; now it’s counting down the days — not weeks or months — until Rozsival is back in the lineup.

Rozsival could play this weekend, according to coach Joel Quenneville; even if it’s not against St. Louis on Saturday or Calgary on Sunday, Rozsival is very close to returning. It’s been a long wait for Rozsival, who has spent these last few months going from no on-ice work at all to solo skates to post-practice skates with a mini parachute attached to his back. He’s now going through the normal workouts/practices with teammates and looking forward to the night he’s back in the lineup.

“Yeah, I'm getting really close, feeling better every day, getting good workouts in practice and kind of getting into all situations out there,” said Rozsival. “It was nice today. We did some 1-on-1s and 2-on-2 battles, which I haven't done much. So it was good to test it out in these situations, as well. Yeah, I'm feeling better every day and hopefully as soon I can get on the ice and start playing games.”

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Quenneville said Rozsival’s recovery continues even with the normal practices, since he’s back to jostling with teammates during drills.

“This is the toughest part, when you’re getting pushed and you’re shoving right now and getting extra skates in there. It can be frustrating at times. It looks like it’s a long way away, but he’s getting closer now to where he can see the lineup and see himself playing,” Quenneville said. “It was tough injury he had to go through, and the rehab’s tougher because it’s an injury (that) when you get back there’s a little history there you have to deal with.”

It’s unknown how much Rozsival will play once he’s back. It’ll depend on how he’s coming off that injury and, as Quenneville always says, his play will dictate how many minutes he logs. It’s more likely Rozsival goes back to rotating with another defenseman in that sixth spot — with cap concerns returning once Rozsival and Duncan Keith come off long-term injured reserve, it’s unlikely the Blackhawks will be able to keep eight defenseman as they did a few years ago.

Regardless, Rozsival is just about back. And after six months of rehab, skating and more skating, that’s a good thing.

“It’s tough, but it's something everybody has to go through to get back into game shape,” Rozsival said. “To tell you the truth, I kind of enjoy the process, too, right now. I'm feeling better and feeling like I'm getting my conditioning back, and feeling like I'm close to a return. So, it's kind ofexciting.”

A recap of Kirby Dach’s AHL debut and Blackhawks explanation for conditioning stint

A recap of Kirby Dach’s AHL debut and Blackhawks explanation for conditioning stint

Kirby Dach made his pro debut on Saturday, but it wasn't with the Blackhawks.

The No. 3 overall pick from this past June was activated from his injured/non-roster designation and assigned to the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League for conditioning purposes and jumped right into the lineup. He didn't appear in any NHL preseason games because he was under the league's concussion protocol during training camp.

In his season debut, Dach recorded two shots on goal and had a minus-1 rating in a 4-2 loss to the Grand Rapids Griffins. He centered the fourth line with Brandon Hagel and Nick Moutrey.

Blackhawks coach Jeremy Colliton discussed the decision to send Dach to Rockford after Saturday's game against the Winnipeg Jets, and it sounds like the organization remains committed to giving him a look at the NHL level whenever his conditioning stint is over.

"He hasn't played in a long time," Colliton said. "Missed training camp, missed the exhibition season. We think he can help us so we're trying to set him up, give him the best opportunity so when he does get the chance here he'll be as ready as he can be. It's a good league down there and a chance for him to get his feet wet against men. And I think he's been getting better and better in his practice time here with us. So I'm excited. Hopefully, he can gain confidence down there and then be ready to help us."

Because he's not eligible to play in the AHL full-time this season due to Canadian Hockey League rules, Dach's conditioning stint in Rockford can last up to 14 days, according to the Collective Bargaining Agreement, before the Blackhawks are forced to either recall him or send him back to the Saskatoon Blades in the Western Hockey League.

Rockford has four more games over that span, with its next one on Monday against the Laval Rocket at BMO Harris Bank Center.

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Four takeaways: Blackhawks squander two-goal lead in overtime loss to Jets

Four takeaways: Blackhawks squander two-goal lead in overtime loss to Jets

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 3-2 overtime loss to the Winnipeg Jets at the United Center on Saturday:

1. Squandering a two-goal lead

For the second straight home game, the Blackhawks jumped out in front and even built an early cushion by scoring the first two goals in the opening frame. But they allowed the Jets to score three unanswered, including the overtime winner by Mark Scheifele, to remain winless on the season (0-2-1).

"We did a good job in the first and they took it to us in the second," said Brandon Saad, who scored a shorthanded goal. "Lehnny made some big saves and the third was kind of even. But we definitely had chances to close it out and we didn’t. At least we got a point and we have to move on from it."

2. Another lackluster second period

If there's one thing you can point to that's been a trend in all three games so far, it's that the Blackhawks have been lackluster in the second period. And it's difficult to pinpoint why.

In the middle frame, the Blackhawks have 10 scoring chances for and 35 against at 5-on-5, two high-danger chances for and 10 against at 5-on-5 and a minus-19 shot differential, according to Natural Stat Trick. That's an area of the game they're trying to clean up and has been the downfall to their attempts of putting together a full 60-minute effort.

"Obviously it's been three in a row where we haven't been very good in the second period and to me that's where you show how good you are," coach Jeremy Colliton said. "The best teams, they dominate the second period, so it's a point of emphasis for us. We'd like to control the tempo of the game and control the territory, out-chance the other team. That's where you show how good you are, so we're not close to where we want to be in that area."

3. Robin Lehner's debut

After going two weeks without game action, the Blackhawks gave the nod to Lehner, who went into Saturday with a 4-0-0 record, 2.76 goals-against average and .922 save percentage in five career games against the Jets. He took the loss, but certainly did his part to deserve a win.

In regulation, Lehner stopped 30 of 32 shots for a save percentage of .938. The first goal was on the power play, the second came at 5-on-5 when Andrew Copp found himself all alone in front and the third was in overtime during 3-on-3 action. His 5-on-5 save percentage was .962, which will definitely work.

"I felt good," Lehner said. "I felt like I saw the puck well. I thought rebound control was good. Again, the first one is unfortunate, it squeaks through. But I was where I wanted to be in position and somehow it goes in. Gotta try to clean that up. And the third goal, it just dove on me. He missed his shot. It’s unfortunate. But I thought I made some good saves and felt comfortable. We got a point, which is something, but should’ve got a win today."

4. Penalty kill shows improvement

The Blackhawks gave up a power-play goal for the third consecutive contest, but this was close to being a perfect night for the penalty kill. They went 3-for-4 and gave up only four shots on goal in the 7:38 of shorthanded time.

On the first Jets power play of the night, Saad scored a shorthanded goal for his first of the season and the Blackhawks later generated two more scoring chances before the two minutes expired.

The power-play goal against should've been stopped by Lehner but he did everything right and had the shortside sealed, the puck just found a mini hole. The Blackhawks responded with a big kill and had one late in the third period also. No complaints.

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