Kirby Dach is back.
The centerpiece of the Blackhawks’ future core was activated off long-term injured reserve Saturday and officially returned to the lineup against the Predators.
Dach had missed the first 34 games of the season recovering from wrist surgery in December after a freak injury in the World Junior Championships.
But he was initially expected to miss four-to-five months, putting his return optimistically in late April, so he ultimately recovered drastically ahead of schedule. He’d been practicing with the Hawks, ramping up his conditioning and physical contact, since March 8.
Dach centered a new third line with Mattias Janmark and Dylan Strome in warmups before puck drop against the Predators. He’ll be eased into action but likely move up the depth chart soon, usurping current first-line center Pius Suter and second-line center David Kampf.
The 20-year-old forward, the third overall pick in the 2019 NHL draft, demonstrated tremendous growth during his 2019-20 rookie season.
In the fall, he began training with Ian Mack, building up his muscle mass to be able to handle a 20-minutes-per-night role. He won’t be tasked with that much playing time immediately this spring, but he may well finish the season receiving it.