It was frustrating for Artem Anisimov to miss the final month of the regular season. The second-line center was at the top of his game when he suffered an injury to his left leg in Montreal on March 14.
Still, there are silver linings to everything; in Anisimov’s case, it’s being ready for the postseason, which it appears he will be.
“I was happy about this news and I started getting ready for the playoffs. The staff did a tremendous job with conditioning for me and I’m ready to play,” Anisimov said on Tuesday. “Get ready for the first game, and here I am.”
Anisimov will be back, as will Niklas Hjalmarsson, when the Blackhawks begin their first-round series against the Nashville Predators on Thursday. Anisimov has been skating for about a week now, and he doesn’t foresee any limitations with his game – “I’m going to continue to go to the net and play hard every shift and do all my stuff,” he said.
Coach Joel Quenneville doesn’t foresee any issues, either.
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“He looked good, handled everything well. He said he felt good conditioning-wise and health-wise, so all good,” Quenneville said of Anisimov’s practice on Tuesday, his first since sustaining his injury.
“Arty does a lot of things for you. Special teams, both units. Faceoffs, that line, big minutes, matchups and predictability defensively, and offensively getting to the net. So he knows his role and does it very well,” Quenneville continued. “He really adds something to our lineup because he's so useful in ways, and that's an important spot for us. It's good to (see him) back.”
The line did well in Anisimov’s absence, with Tanner Kero centering Patrick Kane and Artemi Panarin for a majority of those games. But the chemistry between the two wings and Anisimov has always been strong, and it should be rekindled quickly.
“It was good to see him back on the ice,” Kane said. “We know he hasn’t played in a while, so I think for us just keep it simple and for him, he does a lot of simple things on the ice anyways. So, it’ll be good to get him going back to the front of the net, and hopefully we’ll be shooting pucks there and get some bounces. But it’s great to have him back. Obviously we missed him, and it’ll be huge going down the stretch here to have him in the lineup.”
There will probably be a little rust, regardless of how good Anisimov feels. Game action hard to replicate in a practice and conditioning work, let alone playoff game action. But Anisimov feels great, and whatever rust there will be, he expects to shed it relatively fast.
“It’s a little bit of pressure. I think after the first shift it’s going to go away,” Anisimov said. “It’s going to be the feeling of the game again and it’ll come back after the first shift.”
- Niklas Hjalmarsson also returned to practice on Tuesday. He and his wife welcomed their second child a few days ago.
- Michal Rozsival, who was injured when Anaheim forward Nick Ritchie punched him in last Thursday’s game against the Ducks, underwent surgery to repair facial fractures on Tuesday. Dr. Michael Terry said in a statement, “surgery went well and he is expected to make a full recovery.”
- Andrew Desjardins is still day-to-day with a lower-body injury sustained against the Ducks.