Kirby Dach practices with Blackhawks, taking huge step in recovery from wrist surgery

Dach will travel on the Hawks’ road trip and continue to practice with the team, although he “still has a ways to go” before playing in a game.

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Kirby Dach practiced with the Blackhawks for the first time Monday.

Kirby Dach practiced with the Blackhawks for the first time Monday.

Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Kirby Dach took a huge leap forward Monday on his road back to game action.

Dach joined the Blackhawks for practice and participated in full, although the session did not include contact drills. He worked on his stick-handling beforehand, then led full-rink, three-on-three rushes and other drills with the rest of the team.

The Hawks are optimistic Dach will return in the regular season.

Before Monday, Dach hadn’t been seen on the ice with the Hawks since breaking his wrist during a controversial stint at the world junior championships in December.

He underwent surgery Dec. 28 and was projected to miss four to five months, putting his approximate return sometime between late April and late May. With the Hawks’ regular-season schedule ending May 10, that made it seem unlikely he’d play much or at all this season.

That seems more likely now, although Hawks coach Jeremy Colliton said that Dach “still has a ways to go” before he’s playing games.

Dach nonetheless will travel on the Hawks’ six-game road trip so he can continue practicing with the team.

“He’s just getting started,” Colliton said. “Up to this point, he was able to spend some time at home [in Canada] for a couple of weeks, which was great when we were on the road. He had to quarantine and all those things, but he had been skating before that. Now we’re just getting him back into the group again. He’ll be around every day, just like everyone else.”

Colliton insisted it’s too early to say definitively whether Dach’s recovery is ahead of schedule but said he “looks good.”

“There’s a lot that can happen from A to Z here,” Colliton said. “But it’s a big positive to get him out there, and we feel encouraged we’re going to get him back at some point.”

The 20-year-old center did indeed look good, displaying his powerful stride and excellent vision in drills.

The wrist injury obviously doesn’t affect his lower body, which general manager Stan Bowman noted more than a month ago when saying Dach “looks like he could play today when you watch him skate.” And Dach did have a little trouble with the stick-handling drills, hitting some of the puck obstacles on his first few attempts.

“It’s great he’s back skating,” forward Philipp Kurashev said. “He’s obviously a big part of this team when he comes back. I’m hoping he’s coming back as fast as he can.”

Dach had 23 points and averaged 14:16 of ice time in 64 games during his 2019-20 rookie season.

He looked stronger and more poised during the summer playoffs and spent the fall working with renowned Chicago trainer Ian Mack. Mack said in September that the Hawks had asked him to prepare Dach to handle 20 or more minutes per game, indicating they planned to move him permanently into a top-six role.

Dach’s injury has delayed that timeline, but he remains a cornerstone player for the franchise’s future.

“In the second half of [last] season, he was one of the reasons why we started playing better,” Colliton said. “And then certainly in the bubble, he was one of our most important forwards.”

His return wasn’t the only good news to come out of practice.

Forward Dylan Strome, who has missed the last seven games with a concussion, and defenseman Calvin de Haan, who missed Sunday’s game with a leg injury, also participated.

And defenseman Connor Murphy, who was ejected Sunday with a match penalty for an illegal hit to the head, won’t be suspended. Colliton said Murphy will be available Tuesday against the Stars.

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