Connor Murphy returns for Blackhawks, but Lucas Carlsson, Dylan Strome are out
The Hawks’ injury list has been an ongoing saga since weeks before the season began. It now has eight players: Carlsson, Strome, Jonathan Toews, Alex Nylander, Kirby Dach, Zach Smith, Brent Seabrook and Andrew Shaw.
The Blackhawks’ injury list — a saga since weeks before the season began — scrambled again Monday.
Defenseman Connor Murphy was activated from injured reserve, but fellow defenseman Lucas Carlsson was put on the list and ruled out for 10-14 days with a strained groin.
Meanwhile, forward Dylan Strome went into concussion protocol and presumably will miss at least a few more days and games, adding to his nightmarish February.
Murphy’s return is the one piece of good news. A reliable stalwart on the back end, Murphy has averaged 22:45 of ice time per game, which ranked second to Duncan Keith before Murphy’s hip injury this month. He has missed the last six games but practiced fully the last three days.
Coach Jeremy Colliton didn’t commit to Murphy playing Tuesday or Thursday against the Blue Jackets, but there seems to be a good chance.
“We’re trying to get him back in as soon as we can,” Colliton said. “He plays heavy penalty kill, heavy five-on-five [minutes]. That’ll help us.
“It was a big hole to fill over the last little bit, and I’m proud of the guys, how they’ve stepped up and everyone’s taken on more responsibility to get the job done.”
One of the guys who stepped up in Murphy’s absence was Carlsson.
After playing in only four of the Hawks’ first 13 games, Carlsson was in the lineup for each of the last six and averaged nearly 14 minutes. The 23-year-old Swede hasn’t recorded any points this season but ranks sixth on the team in scoring-chance ratio.
“He’s gotten better as he’s played a few games in a row,” Colliton said. “He’s made more and more plays offensively the last few games, so [the injury is] unfortunate for him. He’s just got to work at getting back as soon as he can.”
Swapping Murphy for Carlsson is nonetheless an upgrade for the Hawks, who don’t have any depth problems on defense.
The biggest concern is for Strome, who had struggled lately but remains an important piece of the Hawks’ offense. The injury list for forwards alone now has Strome, Jonathan Toews, Kirby Dach, Alex Nylander, Zack Smith and Andrew Shaw.
The Hawks believe Strome was concussed on a hit a few games ago but didn’t initially feel affected. Symptoms appeared only recently.
“In talking to him, he hasn’t felt as good the last little while,” Colliton said. “It’s tough. As a player, you want to play, and you feel like you can play through things. It’s easy to be in denial about what you’re feeling. But he just came to the point where he felt it had to be something and spoke up. I’m glad. Earlier [is] better than later, but we’ll see how long it’s going to be.”
Colliton’s playing career in the Islanders’ organization ended at age 27 because of recurring concussions. He spoke at length and from the heart about how he’d fake tests and tell himself he’d “feel better in 20 minutes” to play through head injuries.
He was emotionally shaken by Shaw’s concussion news two weeks ago. Though Strome doesn’t have Shaw’s history, any concussion is concerning, and Strome will be treated for his perhaps because of Colliton’s attentiveness to the subject.
“Whenever you see someone get hit, I personally just follow up: ‘Are you sure you’re OK? You feel anything?’ ” Colliton said. “Next day, [I ask the] same thing: ‘You good? You feel anything?’
“Because every other injury, you’re taught to play through it. But head injuries are a totally different animal, and it’s a little bit against how you’re supposed to react when you face that adversity. Often they need a little bit of a nudge: ‘This is OK to be honest and take yourself out.’ ”