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Blackhawks Bits: Tyler Johnson undergoes neck surgery; Murphy in concussion protocol

Some news and notes from Friday morning.

Vancouver Canucks v Chicago Blackhawks Photo by Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images

The Blackhawks announced a trio of medical updates on Friday morning.

Forward Jujhar Khaira did not practice with the team Friday due to a non-COVID related illness. He has not been ruled out for Saturday’s game in New York against the Rangers.

Defensemen Connor Murphy has been placed in concussion protocol. He was injured after a hit along the boards during Thursday night’s game against the Washington Capitals.

Forward Tyler Johnson underwent neck surgery Friday morning and is expected to miss about three months. He has only suited up for eight Blackhawks games before he took a cross-check to the neck in the October 29th game versus the Carolina Hurricanes.

For Johnson, team physician Dr. Michael Terry said they originally tried to manage the neck injury conservatively, but ultimately decided surgery was the best course of action. Interestingly, Johnson got the same artificial disc replacement surgery as Jack Eichel — making him only the second active NHL player the surgery was performed on.

Head coach Derek King stated that the decision for the ADR surgery was Johnson’s and that the Blackhawks supported him with that choice — an important note considering how the Buffalo Sabres organization handled the situation with Eichel around the same procedure:

The obvious hope with the new type of surgery is ultimately better for long-term continued play of the player as well as the recovery time being shorter than more traditional disk fusion surgery. The escalated recovery looks possible — Eichel was seen skating yesterday before just three weeks out from his surgery.

In some good news, both Calvin de Haan and Riley Stillman participated in practice Friday morning with the team. De Haan had missed two practices and Thursday’s night’s game with back soreness and Stillman has been out since November 21st with a knee injury.

There was no definitive answer on when either would be back for Blackhawks games, but King mentioned that they were happy that Stillman’s injury wasn’t as severe as initially expected, suggesting he’ll be back in the lineup sooner rather than later.

With the rise in COVID cases around the league, forward Patrick Kane said he is still hopeful that NHL player will be allowed to participate in the 2022 Olympics, but that he understands the caution as well:

The Blackhawks will next face the New York Rangers on Saturday night for a 7 pm start.