It has been tough watching the Chicago Blackhawks play without rookie phenom Connor Bedard.
Bedard has been out with a fractured jaw since January 5th after a hit he took against the New Jersey Devils.
The Hawks are 3-10 since Bedard went on injured reserve. The offense has been terrible without him. The team is averaging below two goals a game without the wunderkind. Chicago has been shut out in four of the 13 games Connor has missed and has five games where the team has scored just one goal during regulation or overtime.
It has been nothing but bad without Connor. Now there is hope he could be returning to the ice to bring some good back to the Blackhawks.
Bedard was expected to miss six to eight weeks with the jaw injury, and he has entered the fifth week. He has been doing more recently on the practice ice while wearing the green non-contact jersey.
If the doctors give the all-clear for Bedard to return to practice next week, then the next hurdle is getting back into game shape to start playing. That means it is only a matter of time before the Hawks' main attraction on the ice is back.
You might want to circle these four games for his potential return...
Friday, February 23rd vs. Winnipeg Jets
It is highly unlikely that once Bedard is cleared for practice he will be back for next Wednesday's game against Philadelphia. Blackhawks head coach Luke Richardson wants Bedard to get in a couple of practices before he returns.
That means he gets at least three days after seeing the doctors for Connor to hit the practice ice to get ready for the Jets.
If it were up to Bedard, he would probably find a way to fly to Carolina to play against the Hurricanes next Monday if he is cleared for contact that day. The Hawks have been working with Bedard to be patient during this process.
That is why the 23rd seems like that would be the absolute earliest he returns.
Sunday, February 25th vs. Detroit Red Wings
Richardson hinted that this game might be the most realistic in terms of the soonest Bedard returns to game action.
Having Bedard return during the same game Patrick Kane makes his United Center return would be huge. It becomes even bigger since that is the night Chris Chelios' No. 7 gets retired and is raised to the United Center rafters.
Thursday, February 29th vs. Colorado Avalanche
This might be the safest bet for Connor's return. Bedard would have a full week and a half of practice to get back into hockey shape. Having Bedard return against Nate MacKinnon may not be the draw as playing against Kane, but it would still be nice to catch that game.
Saturday, March 2nd vs. Columbus Blue Jackets
At the reported rate Bedard is progressing, this is probably the last possible game for his return if he is cleared for contact next Monday. That would be nearly two weeks for him to get ready to play.
It would be close to that eighth week when it comes to projecting how much time he was missing. If something does happen that pushes back his return, then Monday, March 4th at Colorado would be the other game he could return as that would be the beginning of the eighth week on his return timeline.
I am no doctor, but if Bedard is doing everything on the ice but contact, then it seems like March is probably a very conservative return. At least we are getting closer to his return and that is welcomed news.