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3 things we learned at Chicago Blackhawks practice, including Connor Bedard’s ‘pain in the butt’ obsession with ice time

Eileen T. Meslar/Chicago Tribune/TNS

Nick Foligno fully participated in the Chicago Blackhawks’ last practice Sunday before they jetted off to Vancouver for a four-game road trip.

Talking to reporters after practice, Foligno was no longer wearing a cast on his left ring finger, which he fractured during a fight with New Jersey Devil Brendan Smith after Smith hit Connor Bedard and broke his jaw.

Speaking of Bedard, he took part in some light skating drills with Samuel Savoie (broken right femur) as both young skaters rehab from their injuries.

“It’s more skill stuff,” coach Luke Richardson said. “That’s what he can do right now.

“The more time on the ice for him, it’ll help when he gets to the point where he graduates to join the team. He’ll be ahead of the curve, so that’s good.”

However, Bedard won’t join the Hawks on the road trip.

Here’s what we learned.

1. Connor Bedard is practically stuck to the ice.

Since he’s been cleared to skate following surgery to repair his jaw, it seems like it takes a Zamboni to push Bedard off the ice.

He’s skating under certain restrictions, but attempts by coaches and trainers to get him to go easy have failed.

“Failed miserably,” Foligno said. “Sucks. Puppy eyes and you just let him out there. No, it’s great to see that he’s feeling great.”

Foligno explained how Bedard worms his way back onto the ice at every opportunity he sees.

“He was laughing today, he went out (before practice), got kicked off, goes back out for the goalies, then got kicked off for practice, and then he’s going back out again,” the veteran said.

“But at 18 years old, what else are you going to do in your day? You can’t do anything else, there’s no responsibilities other than playing hockey, so I don’t blame him. And it’s only going to benefit us.”

Asked whether Bedard twists any arms to skate during practice, too, coach Luke Richardson laughed, “Well, not with me.

“The trainers said he’s being a pain in the butt, but that’s good, right? You want people who are striving to get back.”

That won’t necessarily change his timeline for return.

Until the jaw fully heals, “he’s no contact,” Richardson said. “He’s still not really supposed to be taking hard slap shots and stuff like that; heavy clenching.

The Hawks are taking a measured approach with every physical activity.

“Even the bike rides in the gym are progressing,” Richardson said. “He can’t be maxing out on weights and stuff where you’re really stressing the facial muscles.”

2. Nick Foligno waits in the wings.

The Hawks could use all the offense they can scrounge up — or pretty much any forward for that matter — after being stung by the injury bug in December and January.

But Foligno (finger) and Ryan Donato (illness) taking line rushes was a welcome sight.

Foligno, who has missed seven games, said he felt good.

“I’m excited to get on the trip,” he said. “We’ll see where tomorrow goes, but I’m just excited to be back and prove to me that I’m not ready to watch anytime soon.”

As for Donato, who has missed two games, Richardson said, “Dono was really depleted with the flu for a few days, really medicated up, so drowsy. Today he said he felt much better.”

The Hawks may even wait to see how Foligno and Donato handle a morning skate and a pregame warmup before giving either the green light.

“We don’t like being down (a forward) in a game if someone’s not ready,” Richardson said. “And (Foligno’s) a veteran guy, he’ll know.”

Foligno’s being patient.

“You want to get in the lineup, but you also want to respect the way the guys are playing,” he said. “But hopefully I can sneak in there.”

3. Lukas Reichel has taken a step back.

Reichel was a scratch when the Hawks rushed lines during practice.

He was a healthy scratch Dec. 3 against the Minnesota Wild — coaches’ attempt to send a message — but he’s faltering again.

Reichel has only had a goal and two assists since that game, and he hasn’t even taken a shot in two of the last three games.

Richardson said, “He’s doing a lot of things we’re asking him to do defensively, it’s just the same (problems with) confidence offensively and shooting pucks and not holding onto them too long and getting stripped and being frustrated and making him play defense too much. Sometimes he’s just overthinking it.

“Sometimes when you take a step back and work on some individual stuff, see some video, and see some other players making some correct decisions but also some incorrect decisions, that sometimes helps you get your game on track.”

Foligno suggested this isn’t something teammates or coaches can fix, just Reichel himself.

“A lot of times what happens is there’s too many people sometimes in your ear,” he said. “We’ve all been there, too.

“Reichs just has to find that confidence within himself and learn that the best way to come out of these things sometimes is through the work that you do, not somebody else coming over to you.

“That’s where I think he’s at right now is understanding, ‘What makes me great?’ I know I’m here for a reason and believing it himself.”