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Blackhawks’ Connor Murphy closing in on chance to make impact with laggardly ‘D’

On the night newcomers Dylan Strome and Brendan Perlini made their Blackhawks debuts, still missing from the lineup was a former teammate of theirs in Arizona who could make the biggest impact when he returns: Connor Murphy.

Murphy missed training camp and has yet to play this season because of a back injury. He finally has started practicing with the team this week — and the Hawks’ laggardly defense sorely needs him.

Anytime now, Murphy, 25, will get the chance to play himself into a prominent role as new coach Jeremy Colliton continues to experiment liberally with line combinations and defensive pairings.

“It’s nice to be in the room every day and around the guys,” he said. “But it’s hard not being able to be a hockey player for a while.”

Connor Murphy is getting closer to his second act with the Blackhawks. (AP Photo)

Murphy cleared up some of the speculation about when and how he hurt his back during a key offseason for a Coyotes first-round pick who has much work to do to make Hawks fans stop pining for the Stanley Cup-winning defenseman he was traded for, Niklas Hjalmarsson.

A month before the start of training camp, Murphy felt fine. A couple of weeks later, there was an onset of discomfort. The Hawks announced he was out on the first day of camp.

“I felt something sore,” he said. “I was actually working out and skating with it and didn’t feel like it was that big of a deal, and then I found that there was an injured spot there and knew the only way to handle it was to let it heal. Unfortunately, some things that feel like small injuries end up taking longer to heal than you’d want to.”

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Coming to town as Hjalmarsson — not to mention Artemi Panarin, in a separate deal — was shipped out probably didn’t do Murphy any favors in terms of the overall impression of his play. He should bring an instant upgrade wherever he resettles into the top six on the blue line.

Colliton bares all

OK, not really. But the coach did share with reporters the duration of his contract.

“I don’t love talking about my own status,” Colliton said. “It’s two more years after this.”

Why it’s a touchy subject only three weeks into his time with the Hawks is anyone’s guess. Then again, Colliton’s way thus far has been to deflect get-to-know-you questions — ones of a personal nature, that is — with straight hockey talk.

And that’s OK. He’s got to be himself. Maybe he’ll come around a bit more, though.

Medical report

Defenseman Brandon Davidson had surgery on his right knee. His recovery time is expected to be six to eight weeks.

Rookie defenseman Henri Jokiharju missed the game with an illness.