Blackhawks return to practice but lose Marc-Andre Fleury to protocols, have another game postponed

The Blackhawks-Jets game scheduled for Wednesday was postponed, leaving the Hawks idle until at least Saturday.

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Marc-Andre Fleury was placed in COVID protocols Monday.

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The Blackhawks returned to practice Monday for an hourlong session at Fifth Third Arena.

Nine days removed from their last game, six days removed from their last practice and with five days left until their next game, the practice felt like the start of a new season.

“[We’re] a little bit out of rhythm of playing, but it should be fine,” winger Alex DeBrincat said. “The rest is very nice. It’s almost like the start of a new season. You feel rejuvenated and have some energy back. It’s just good to get practicing again. Through our [normal] schedule, we don’t have too much time to practice, so today was nice to get back to basics.”

The Hawks’ road game scheduled for Wednesday against the Jets was postponed by the NHL on Monday, one day after the league postponed the Hawks’ scheduled home game Tuesday against the Blue Jackets. 

The Hawks have endured five postponements this December — including four in a row, spanning both sides of the holiday break, which was extended — and aren’t scheduled to play again until Saturday at the Predators.

On one hand, the postponements are somewhat fortunate considering goalie Marc-Andre Fleury entered COVID-19 protocols Monday. Collin Delia was recalled from the AHL to temporarily back up Kevin Lankinen, and interim coach Derek King said Fleury wouldn’t have been available Wednesday even if that game hadn’t been postponed. The fewer games Fleury misses, the better.

But on the other hand, the Hawks are growing tired of losing chances to play despite being relatively healthy. Defenseman Calvin de Haan exited protocols as Fleury entered, keeping the Hawks’ number of players with COVID at one.

“It’s probably a higher frustration level [than the last two seasons],” defenseman Connor Murphy said. “Last year, we knew what we were getting into for a longer period of time. As hard as it was to deal with some of the different protocols and no fans in the bubbles, we [knew] that was the way it was going to be. 

“Getting to play over 30 games pretty normally [this season], it’s frustrating to go back. It’s something that’s out of your control, how the COVID outbreaks have hit lately. . . . We’re just trying to stick with that process and hope it clears and goes back to normal.”

The Hawks assigned only winger Brett Connolly to their reinstated taxi squad, but King and interim general manager Kyle Davidson will talk soon about whom they can add. 

Complicating matters is the Rockford IceHogs’ new COVID outbreak, which has sidelined their interim coach, Anders Sorensen, as well as NHL prospects Mike Hardman, Ian Mitchell and Nicolas Beaudin and four other players.

The “majority” of Hawks have received vaccination booster shots, King said, which might be contributing to their general healthiness.

‘‘We’ve been talking through it like, ‘If this happens or this happens, [what’s the] worst case?’ ’’ King said. ‘‘We’re just preparing ourselves as if we’re playing the next game.’’

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