Dylan Strome participates in Blackhawks practice after bye week, nearing return

The forward could play for the first time since his Jan. 7 ankle injury on Saturday against the Coyotes.

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Dylan Strome’s return would put the Blackhawks’ forward corps back at almost full health.

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GLENDALE, Ariz. — Dylan Strome returned from the Blackhawks’ nine-day midseason break noticeably tanner but also golf-deprived and ready to be fully recovered from his ankle injury.

The forward, sidelined for the second time this season, was a full participant in practice for the first time since the injury and is unofficially questionable for Saturday’s game against the Coyotes.

“Yeah, [I’m] getting there,” he said Thursday. “A game’s a lot different than a practice. [I’ll] try to push it pretty hard tomorrow. Felt pretty good out there, did a lot of skating.

“It’s an injury where you just don’t want to make it worse. I tried to skate a few times after it happened. I think [that] didn’t really help it. Felt OK to walk on, but the skating [is] just a different story. Took some time off, got the right treatment, feels pretty good now, so happy about that.”

Strome was racing on a two-on-one break with Kirby Dach on Jan. 7 when he collided awkwardly with Flames defenseman Oliver Kylington, who had sprawled out to break up Strome’s attempted pass, and tumbled awkwardly into the boards.

When X-rays indicated it was only a right ankle sprain, Strome tried to bounce back immediately by coming out onto the ice before practice Jan. 10. But he left within seconds.

“It was pretty sore to walk, but sometimes you’ll have an injury where it hurts to walk, but when you get on the ice, it feels pretty good,” he said. “But [it] felt horrible. Couldn’t even push off.”

The time missed has weighed on him mentally. He missed four games with a concussion between Nov. 23 and Dec. 2 and had been back barely more than a month before exiting the lineup again.

He mentioned in the middle of an unrelated sentence that he has missed 11 games this season. That number had clearly been on his mind all break, although he “still got away to the sun” despite sacrificing the golf part of his vacation.

“It sucks watching when you know you could be out there,” he said. “Obviously going through that play [with Dach] in my head a few times, I wish I would have shot it on that one. You obviously can’t think about that.”

But while sitting out, he also watched the Hurricanes’ Dougie Hamilton suffer a likely season-ending fractured fibula on a similar play and realizes his sprain was altogether a fortunate outcome.

“It’s pretty much the same thing that happened to [Hamilton]. I got lucky,” Strome said. “I stood up and . . . I just felt weak. Yeah, I thought I broke something. I thought I broke my tibia or fibula, or one of those around my leg. Didn’t feel good.”

Coach Jeremy Colliton said the Hawks will have a better idea Friday of Strome’s availability for Saturday, but the center is clearly returning soon.

The fact Brandon Hagel was not recalled Wednesday from the AHL alongside Dennis Gilbert demonstrates confidence in that, and Strome skated on a line in practice with Alex DeBrincat and David Kampf.

Strome’s return will be another huge boost for the forward corps, which saw Drake Caggiula and Brandon Saad return from injuries shortly before the All-Star break and make immediate impacts. Other than Strome, Andrew Shaw is the only other attacker on injured reserve.

“I’m very fortunate it was like 10 or 11 days off,” Strome said. “That’s probably five or six more games. Good timing, I guess, if you’re going to get injured right before the All-Star break.”

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