Connor Bedard broke his jaw 10 days ago and had surgery seven days ago, but he was back on the ice Monday, skating after Chicago Blackhawks practice at Fifth Third Arena.
He wore a green no-contact jersey and took light shots at an empty net along with fellow injured Hawks Nick Foligno and Samuel Savoie.
Bedard wore a protective cage over his jaw, which was broken during a collision with the New Jersey Devils’ Brendan Smith on Jan. 5.
“He’s been begging,” coach Luke Richardson said.
Richardson said trainers were fine with Bedard taking the ice as long as he followed specific instructions.
“He’s not allowed to take slap shots, so he’s not allowed to really clench,” Richardson said. “So if they see that, they might pull the rug out from under him.
“He’s just eager and it will be good for him to get moving. He just has to be very careful. I don’t know if he can even put anything in (his mouth) because … (it’s) not completely wired shut, but it’s elastic bands on it that keep it so that there’s minimal amount of movement.”
Richardson said Bedard’s apparent quick healing changes nothing about his timeline to return, originally projected at six to eight weeks.
“With the plate (in his jaw), there is a specific timeline, so they’re probably going to stick close to it,” Richardson said.
Here are three more things we learned from Blackhawks practice.
1. The clenches come when you’re down in the trenches.
Richardson expressed concern several times about Bedard resisting the urge to clench his teeth while shooting pucks.
But you’d think that’s something Bedard could easily control, right?
On the other hand, some Tribune game-action photos of Bedard taking shots show he makes some high-intensity faces.
Richardson said, “I think just like most sports, anything that there’s an exertion, you subconsciously squeeze down. So I think that’s why mouth guards have become so important.
“You’ll see them in even noncontact sports because a guy kicking a ball or jumping up and down and landing hard on a basketball court, or even weightlifting, they have mouth guards in there for clenching. And I think there’s data that there’s strength in your exertion if you have that clenching for some reason.”
2. Are teams sniffing around Jason Dickinson?
General manager Kyle Davidson has swung a lot of trades in his first two years on the job, but he said Saturday, “I don’t necessarily know if we’ll be as active and as busy this year but again, just given where we’re at, we have to listen to everything and we have to consider everything.”
While the Hawks probably aren’t shopping players this season, there’s likely a market for a versatile forward like Dickinson who’s having his best season in his ninth year.
Davidson said, “I won’t get into trade talk or anything like that, but I think people have taken notice.”
The NHL trade deadline is March 8.
Dickinson’s one of the Hawks’ most reliable forwards on the penalty kill, he’s second only to Bedard (15) with 14 goals (already a career high), he’s tops among their forwards in blocks (40), he’s leading all forwards in hits (64), and he’s by far their heavy lifter on faceoffs with 635 draws (winning 46.3%).
But it’s the team-leading 21.2% shooting that really pops.
Dickinson attributed it to “little things — changing the angles on goalies, changing the angles on defenders, getting feet to move certain ways, sticks to go different angles.
“All those things go into thinking about how I was approaching pucks, approaching the offensive zone in the summer,” he said. “It’s definitely helping and translating into more success and opportunities.”
Davidson said, “Jason’s went from more of your defensive forward and grew his offensive game this year while also maintaining being a solid defensive player.
“It just speaks to his growth as a player and his confidence he’s gained over the last year and a bit since he’s been here. And we’ve given him a great opportunity to grow that. Big credit to him.”
The Hawks acquired Dickinson in an October 2022 trade that sent Riley Stillman to the Vancouver Canucks, but Dickinson will become an unrestricted free agent after the season, leaving the Hawks with a decision to make.
Richardson has advocated for keeping Dickinson around just for his leadership and locker room influence, but Davidson hedged about committing to him long-term, at least for now.
“We have to decide one way or another if we want to keep him around and put him under contract and keep that continuity with Jason and the great play that he’s had and that great leadership that he’s brought,” Davidson said. “It’s the sort of thing we’re going to weigh over the next couple of weeks.”
When asked about negotiations, Dickinson said, “They’re talking. We’ll sort something out if it’s right.”
3. Everybody’s all American — including Kevin Korchinski.
We’ve established that former World Junior teammates Korchinski and Bedard were fairly confident about Canada’s chances of three-peating their gold-medal run, and they weren’t shy about letting Hawks teammates rooting for their own home countries know about it.
Alex Vlasic told the Tribune, “Me and Kevin, we’re giving it to each other before the tourney started. … Yeah, me and Kev were chirping.”
Vlasic never got to compete for the United States under-20 World Junior team because of an ill-timed bout of COVID-19, but he still relished the Americans’ recent gold-medal win over the host Swedes.
“It was really cool to see USA win,” he said. “They had the best team. They looked like they were flying out there, some skilled players on that team.”
Even sweeter for Vlasic, he had a side bet going with Korchinski
“He said he’d wear my USA jersey to the rink but I’ve still got to get him to do it,” Vlasic said. “Maybe one of these days coming up.”
At the point the young blueliners agreed to the bet, Canada had already been eliminated from the tournament by Czechia.
“So I kind of knew he couldn’t do anything to me,” Vlasic said. “I was like, ‘If USA wins it, you gotta wear my jersey.’”