Good injury news abounds for Blackhawks as Alex Stalock, others return to practice

Stalock (concussion), Petr Mrazek (groin), Jonathan Toews (illness), Sam Lafferty (back) and Jarred Tinordi (hip) all hit the ice Thursday. Lafferty and Toews could return as soon as Friday against the Jets.

SHARE Good injury news abounds for Blackhawks as Alex Stalock, others return to practice
Alex Stalock looks on.

Blackhawks goalie Alex Stalock has experienced ups and downs in his concussion recovery, but he took a major step forward Thursday.

AP Photo/Abbie Parr

The Blackhawks returned to Chicago and welcomed back a plethora of familiar faces to practice Thursday, providing some optimism in an otherwise bleak stretch for the team.

Goaltenders Alex Stalock (concussion) and Petr Mrazek (groin), forwards Jonathan Toews (illness) and Sam Lafferty (back) and defenseman Jarred Tinordi (hip) all hit the ice at Fifth Third Arena, and all but Mrazek were full participants in practice.

Stalock’s return was most notable because his status has wavered since Islanders forward Casey Cizikas decked him on Nov. 1 and gave him the first concussion of his career.

He had participated in a morning skate one time since then (Nov. 27) but was promptly pulled back after his symptoms worsened. He now has worked his way back to this stage.

“It has been a few times now where you feel like you’re ready to give it a try and then, the next day, you wake up and it’s not even close to what it was,” Stalock said Thursday. “I was warned earlier that you’re going to have setbacks, but you never feel like it’s going to happen. Sure enough, it happens a few times, and it’s not fun to deal with something like that mentally.

“It’s tough when you’re by yourself, especially [when the team is] on the road and you’re wondering when and if you’re going to be back around the group. Hopefully, at some point, [I’m] fully engaged in a practice and feel comfortable again. But it’s a step, that’s for sure.”

Stalock was one of the Hawks’ most pleasant surprises in October, starting the season 3-2-1 with a .914 save percentage after making only one NHL appearance in the previous two seasons combined because of myocarditis.

But from the start of training camp, he seemed confident the myocarditis issue was behind him. It’ll be more difficult to teach himself not to worry about the risk of another head injury.

“You want to be able to react and feel comfortable when the puck’s coming in at a high rate of speed,” he said. “You don’t want to be pulling back on a puck. [You’re usually] not expecting it to hit you in the head, but you’re going to get hit in the head again.

“A head is a tough spot for a goalie. It’s going to be a mental hurdle to get over. But that’ll come with time and reps.”

There’s no official timeline yet for Stalock, considering the unpredictability of his situation. The same applies to Mrazek, who skated Thursday with Stalock and active goalies Arvid Soderblom and Jaxson Stauber but didn’t stay out for team drills.

Toews, on the other hand, will almost certainly play Friday against the Jets. And Lafferty, who has been sidelined since quietly departing midgame Nov. 23 at the Stars with his back issue, also could return Friday.

“It was a little buildup, and then something happened. I don’t know exactly what it was, but I just felt a pop,” Lafferty said. “I’ve done all the work with the trainers and got it back to where it’s feeling good. I’m excited to be back.”

Tinordi likely won’t play Friday, coach Luke Richardson said, but could return Tuesday against the Capitals.

Even Tyler Johnson, the Hawks’ only injured player not seen Thursday, is “getting close to being back where he was” before suffering a setback in his recovery from an ankle injury. Out since Oct. 25, Johnson was considered questionable to play Nov. 20 but then was seen back in a walking boot a few days later.

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