Blackhawks’ Adam Boqvist preparing for return after recovering from COVID-19

“COVID, it’s nothing to joke around with, because it could be very bad,” Boqvist said Friday. “I’m happy that I didn’t get the so-bad symptoms.”

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Adam Boqvist has resumed skating with the Blackhawks in recent days after his bout with COVID-19.

AP Photos

For most of the Blackhawks in attendance, the optional practice Friday was more informal than usual, with much time spent on multiple rounds of their always-popular “two puck” competition.

But for Adam Boqvist and Lucas Wallmark, the practice was intense.

Having just recovered from COVID-19, Boqvist and Wallmark worked on their conditioning for nearly 90 minutes, taking laps at sprint speed and making quick starts and stops.

It was hard work. But after two weeks spent watching the Hawks on television, unable to even lightly exercise, Boqvist appreciated it more than ever.

“It’s tough at the start, but that’s part of the game,” he said. “Obviously, it feels good to be out there. I’m just having a smile on my face all the time now because this is what I’m living for and what I love to do.”

Boqvist was activated from the COVID-19 list on Monday and Wallmark on Wednesday, each 14 days after being put on it, and coach Jeremy Colliton confirmed both had the virus. Neither has returned to play in a game, with Colliton saying they need to get back up to speed in practice first.

The Hawks have one player left on the list: Ryan Carpenter, who will reach the 14-day mark Saturday. Alex DeBrincat and Nicolas Beaudin had shorter stays on the list because of contact-tracing precautions; neither tested positive.

Boqvist said he wasn’t allowed to even take walks for a while during his quarantine. The Hawks’ medical staff had to perform heart tests to ensure he hadn’t developed any coronavirus complications.

That’s why the process to restore his game shape has taken longer than it does after most common two-week injury absences, such as the one Connor Murphy just started with his hip issue.

“It’s a long stretch without any conditioning,” Colliton said Friday. “We’ll do what we can to get [Boqvist and Wallmark] ready as soon as possible. Obviously, the more guys you have to choose from, it’s good competition in the group, and we like that. It’s going to help us be more consistent.”

Especially because of Murphy’s injury, the Hawks will be eager to reinstate Boqvist when they can.

Fellow rookie defensemen Ian Mitchell and Nicolas Beaudin’s strong starts have stolen some of the spotlight, but Boqvist remains an integral part of the Hawks’ long-term plans. The 20-year-old defenseman made some mistakes in his first six games of 2021 yet tallied three assists and a team-best 60.3% scoring-chance ratio.

Then he tested positive.

“I was surprised because I followed all the rules and everything,” he said. “I wore my mask and stayed at the house and [went] to the rink. But I feel pretty good. Just lost my taste and smell, that’s it.”

He described the experience as “painful,” not because of any major symptoms but rather because of the difficulty of staying away from the team, including temporarily moving out of DeBrincat’s house.

Even now, though, his sense of smell remains nonexistent.

“It’s kind of weird — you want to see if you smell good, or if your cologne is good,” Boqvist said, grinning.

The Hawks missed that daily supply of goofiness while Boqvist was gone.

“He’s always smiling and laughing and making jokes,” DeBrincat said. “He gets the locker room a little more upbeat.”

His brush with the pandemic brought out a more serious side.

“COVID, it’s nothing to joke around with because it could be very bad,” Boqvist said. “I’m happy that I didn’t get the so-bad -symptoms.”

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