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Blackhawks Bits: Toews returns; injury updates on Lafferty, Tinordi, T. Johnson

A few news and notes from this week.

Seattle Kraken v Chicago Blackhawks Photo by Bill Smith/Bill Smith

A couple news items from Thursday’s Chicago Blackhawks practice and earlier this week.

Jonathan Toews was back at practice Thursday after missing Tuesday’s game against the New Jersey Devils with a non-COVID illness. He is expected to play Friday night against the Winnipeg Jets.

Top-prospect Lukas Reichel had been recalled for the Devils game in place of the captain and was sent back to the Rockford IceHogs the next day. Reichel didn’t make much of an impact against the Devils — though again, what Blackhawks player did? — but he played with the IceHogs Wednesday night, scoring the game-tying goal and the shootout winner against the Milwaukee Admirals.

Blackhawks head coach Luke Richardson had a few comments on Reichel’s call-up and performance with the team:

At Thursday’s practice, several updates were made about injured Blackhawks players, including possible return timelines for a few:

Sam Lafferty (back) is the closest to returning. He discussed after practice that he feels “back to normal”, and Richardson said Lafferty will probably play against Winnipeg if all goes well at the morning skate Friday. Lafferty has been out for a little over two weeks since the Nov. 23 game against the Dallas stars.

Next week could see two other returns in Jarred Tinordi (hip) and Tyler Johnson (ankle). Tinordi will be likely ready for the Wednesday night game against the Washington Capitals, while Johnson return is more value, targeting sometime next week as a return to the line-up. The latter is dependant on how practice this weekend goes, as Johnson is expected to begin skating with the team again then. Tinordi was sidelined after the Nov. 25 game against the Montreal Canadiens, and Johnson hasn’t skated since being injured in the Oct. 25 game against the Florida Panthers.

Lastly, both of the Blackhawks injured goaltenders — Alex Stalock (concussion) and Petr Mrazek (groin) — skated on Thursday, though Mrazek did so away from the team practice.

There is no official timeline on Stalock or Mrazek. Stalock has been out over a month after suffering a concussion in the New York Islanders game on Nov. 1. Mrazek re-injured his groin against the New York Rangers last Saturday, and he was placed on injured reserve shortly after.

Lines at practice were the same prior to Toews’ outage with him centering a line with Patrick Kane. Lafferty was rotating on the fourth line, again signaling is possible imminent return.

The defensemen keep shuffling around as Richardson tries to work out which pairings make the most sense. Ian Mitchell and Caleb Jones have both been paired with the more defensive-minded Jake McCabe and Connor Murphy respectively, while Seth Jones and Jack Johnson have been reunited as the top-pair.

Lastly, the NHL announced that the Blackhawks game against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Dec. 31 will now be am afternoon matinee: