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.”

Sports Talk Live Podcast: Is Crawford ready to go?

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USA TODAY

Sports Talk Live Podcast: Is Crawford ready to go?

Jimmy Greenfield, Connor McKnight, and Matt Spiegel join Kap on the panel to discuss Corey Crawford back on the ice for the first time in 10 months. The Bears have good news when it comes to Khalil Mack, who injured his ankle against the Dolphins.

Plus, Fred Hoiberg announces that Jabari Parker is coming off the bench for the season opener.

Listen to the full episode here or via the embedded player below:

Niklas Hjalmarsson 'wasn't happy' about trade, but remembers time with Blackhawks fondly

Niklas Hjalmarsson 'wasn't happy' about trade, but remembers time with Blackhawks fondly

Apparently time doesn’t heal all wounds. 

Nearly a year and a half since being traded to the Coyotes, Niklas Hjalmarsson will return to the United Center ice on Thursday playing for the visiting team.  

“It’s going to be strange coming in as the away team and being in the other locker room,” said Hjalmarsson on Wednesday. “I bet it’s going to be a lot of emotions and mixed feelings.” 

This is also the first time Hjalmarsson has been back to the city of Chicago since he was traded, a city he called his “second home.” A home where he spent parts of 10 seasons, and never really planned on leaving.

“I wasn’t happy, to be honest with you,” said Hjalmarsson of the trade to Arizona. “I was shocked. It took me a couple days to actually realize I wasn’t going to play for the Hawks anymore.”

Including the playoffs, Hjalmarsson played 751 games in the Indian head sweater. Despite that and the team’s three Stanley Cup victories, the Blackhawks shipped him off to Arizona for Connor Murphy and Laurent Dauphin in June of 2017.

“You kind of let it go after a while,” he said. “Now I’m just hoping all the success for the guys over here too.”

Hjalmarsson was known for his toughness, repeatedly blocking shot after shot, giving up his body, while never missing a shift. He credits his long-time teammates — Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook — for a lot of his success and identity on the blue line.

“I couldn’t have had better role models coming into a team,” he said. “I’m very thankful to have played on the same team as those guys and created a lot of success together. We’re always going to be connected with the Cups that we’ve had.”

The third championship won by that defense-trio was on United Center ice against the Lightning in 2015, but that isn’t the memory that stands out most for Hjalmarsson.

“The first Cup is always going to be pretty special,” said the 31-year old. “Even just going to the conference final (in 2009), even when we lost against Detroit that year, the year before was great memories too. The first time for me going into the playoffs and playing deep.”

The tables have turned now for both Hjalmarsson and the Blackhawks. 

The Coyotes have yet to score an even-strength goal this season, while the Blackhawks have claimed eight of a possible 10 points thus far through five games and expect to have their starting goaltender back between the pipes. 

But you won’t hear any ill-will from Hjalmarsson, he’s still rooting for the Hawks.

“I always think that Chicago deserves to have a team in the playoffs,” he said. “It’s not that I wish them not to do well. It’s the total opposite. I want them to have continued success.”