Defenseman Seth Jones’ return from injury could give Blackhawks much-needed boost

Jones plans to play Wednesday against his hometown Stars after missing 10 games with a broken thumb. Getting him back would allow the Hawks to move their other defensemen into more appropriate roles.

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Seth Jones takes a shot.

Seth Jones could return to the Blackhawks’ lineup Wednesday after missing 10 games with a broken thumb.

Chris O’Meara/AP

Something told Blackhawks defenseman Seth Jones the pain he felt during the second intermission Oct. 29 against the Sabres indicated a significant injury, not just another bruise.

But with the Hawks locked in a close game, he decided to play through it and deal with the consequences later.

‘‘You just kind of know sometimes,’’ Jones said Tuesday. ‘‘It didn’t feel good. But it’s one of those things where you have adrenaline going a little bit, and it’s just one period [to get through].’’

The diagnosis after the game confirmed Jones’ suspicion: He had broken his right thumb and would miss an estimated three to four weeks.

As recently as last week, it seemed as though he would miss even longer than that. Coach Luke Richardson estimated last Wednesday that Jones was at least 10 to 14 days away.

But Hawks doctors suddenly liked what they saw on Jones’ X-ray this week and cleared him to return. He went from skating on his own to participating fully in practice Tuesday — on the first pairing with Jack Johnson — before the Hawks’ flight to Dallas, his hometown.

Jones plans to be in the lineup Wednesday against the Stars, and although that isn’t cemented yet, it’s wise not to bet against him when he sets his mind on something.

‘‘Watching on TV is pretty boring,’’ he said. ‘‘It should be fun. [I have] a lot of family there. I’ll have dinner [Tuesday] with some of the family, and obviously they’ll all be at the game [Wednesday].’’

Richardson said he likes to give the ‘‘worst-case scenario and work backward’’ in his injury updates and didn’t seem too surprised by Jones’ sudden return.

‘‘It just depends on how quickly you heal,’’ Richardson said. ‘‘In Ottawa when I was there, Daniel Alfredsson was like a miracle. He always seemed to be healed faster than everybody else.

‘‘As long as the X-rays show the break is clouded over, then it’s going to be solid enough to play. Otherwise, if it was displaced, you can’t really take that chance. With a guy like that, you want to make sure you do the right thing. As long as the doctors clear him, it’s fine.’’

Because the injury didn’t affect his lower body, Jones continued skating — and skating hard — throughout his absence to keep his conditioning up.

That should aid him Wednesday, even though Richardson said he hopes he’ll be able to ease Jones back in with a lighter-than-usual workload. He had averaged 25 minutes, 12 seconds of ice time through the Hawks’ first eight games after averaging 26:13 in 78 games last season.

Of slightly more concern is a splint Jones will have to wear around his thumb for the next few weeks. The splint provides protection against refracturing the bone, but it prevents him from bending the thumb.

‘‘That’s challenging,’’ Jones said. ‘‘I can’t move it or do much with it, but it is what it is. I’ve had it on for about two weeks now . . . so [I’m] pretty used to it.’’

Jones’ return should make a huge difference for the Hawks. They went 2-6-2 during the 10 games he missed and allowed 35.1 shots on goal, 33.1 scoring chances and 3.06 expected goals per 60 minutes at five-on-five, ranking in the bottom five in the league in each category.

Almost all the Hawks’ defensemen have been over-slotted in the depth chart, thrust into roles larger and more difficult than they could handle. With Jones devouring minutes and taking on top matchups again, that problem should resolve itself a bit.

NOTE: The injury update wasn’t as positive for forward Tyler Johnson. He didn’t practice Tuesday after feeling more soreness in his ankle the last two days. At one point, he expected to return last week; now, even next week seems optimistic.

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