Blackhawks

Blackhawks' Michal Rozsival takes next step in recovery process

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Blackhawks' Michal Rozsival takes next step in recovery process

Michal Rozsival looked at being part of the Blackhawks’ morning skate on Saturday as a big positive.

It’s still going to be a bit until he returns; the Blackhawks defenseman suffered an awful left ankle fracture back in May, and he’s still some weeks away from playing in an NHL game. Still he’s improved enough to be out there with his teammates, another sign that he’s going in the right direction.

“I’m definitely excited to be with the team, get that regular practice feeling, get the passing and shooting and have a goalie in the net,” Rozsival said. “I’ve been skating on my own, which is kind of boring. It’s another step forward for me in my recovery.”

[MORE: Blackhawks offense wakes up in win over Blue Jackets]

Rozsival said he has about 85 percent range of motion in that left ankle, which he broke in the Blackhawks’ final second-round game against the Minnesota Wild in early May. He was supposed to be on the ice the night they won the Cup but bad weather disrupted his travel there. Rozsival was there a few days later, however, when the Blackhawks had their parade and rally at Soldier Field.

But it was otherwise a pretty dull summer for the veteran, who had surgery on that ankle on May 12 and whose mobility was obviously limited immediately after that.

“It was a kind of a long summer for me, being on crutches with a boot on my ankle. It was tough; I couldn’t do much. I tried to take care of it as much as I could have,” he said. “It was kind of a boring summer; a lot of sitting around. I’m glad it’s over and I’m looking forward to getting back on the ice again.”

Rozsival has a small plate on the left anklebone. The fracture is healed but Rozsival said there’s still some tightness in the ankle. Nevertheless it’s a lot better than it was when the Blackhawks first convened for training camp back in mid-September.

“It’s improved a lot,” he said. “When I got here in training camp the ankle was tight and stiff and swelling, which I don’t have right now. It’s improved quite a bit.”

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

Rozsival’s recovery isn’t complete yet. He was placed on long-term injured reserve on Oct. 6, so he can’t play again for 24 days and 10 games from that date. But it sounds like it’ll take even more time than that for Rozsival to be ready – “I can’t tell you how long but it’s definitely not ready now. It may be a few more weeks before I can actually go out and play an NHL game,” he said.

But he’s skating with the team, which means he’s moving forward. It’s been a long recovery road for Rozsival. At least now he’s getting closer to the end of it.

“[Skating] with the team, especially in pregame skate, it’s basically, go, go, go. I kind of liked it," Rozsival said. "I’m very happy to be out there and get that feeling back again, being at a higher pace, passing and shooting. Not just being focused on the skating but also being focused on what’s going on around you.

"You have to pay attention to the other players around you. It’s definitely another step forward.”

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.”