Murphy off IR, but Blackhawks lose Strome, Carlsson

  • Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Connor Murphy blocks a Florida Panthers shot in a 2020 game at the United Center.

    Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Connor Murphy blocks a Florida Panthers shot in a 2020 game at the United Center. John Starks | Staff Photographer

Updated 2/22/2021 6:24 PM

After a slow couple of days, the Blackhawks made a tidal wave of news Monday as they prepared to play at Columbus in back-to-back games this week.

The one piece of good news was that defenseman Connor Murphy was taken off injured reserve after missing a week and a half with a hip injury. It's not clear if Murphy will be able to face the Blue Jackets on Tuesday.


Unfortunately for the Hawks, they will now be without forward Dylan Strome and defenseman Lucas Carlsson. Strome entered the concussion protocol, meaning he is out indefinitely; Carlsson is out 10-14 days with a strained groin.

Coach Jeremy Colliton said Strome was hit a "few games ago" and that the symptoms took a while to appear. This is the second time in three seasons Strome (4G, 4A) will miss time due to a concussion.

"I'm pretty sensitive to that stuff and he felt good," said Colliton, whose playing days ended due to multiple head injuries.

Colliton said a Sport Concussion Assessment Tool (or SCAT) test is given to determine each player's baseline. When the medical staff determines the baseline is off, the player is placed into the protocol.

That didn't happen with Strome, however, as the forward finally came forward and admitted he just didn't feel right.

"From personal experience, I could ace all those tests when I was going through my issues," Colliton said. "If I wanted to, no one would've known any different as I was going through some pretty heavy symptoms concussion-wise.

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"There's no exact science yet and in the hockey world … we all want to get better at (picking) things up quicker."

In order to do this, the athlete must be completely honest and admit when something is amiss. The fifth edition of the SCAT test has a section in which a player is asked if they have a headache, neck pain, dizziness, blurred vision, sensitivity to light and noise, if they're confused, drowsy, more emotional, irritable, sad, etc. They rank these on a scale of zero to six.

Memory and balance tests are also performed.

The minute-by-minute internal struggle of whether or not to come forward was at times "terrible" for Colliton. He would often think: "How am I feeling? Am I inventing this? Is this real? Am I going to feel better in 20 minutes?"

"You trying to rationalize that you feel OK, especially if you're playing well or you're in the NHL or you're at a high level," Colliton said. "It's hard to take that step because as soon as you (do) then you're out for a number of days."

Even with Strome, Jonathan Toews and Kirby Dach all out, the Hawks still have plenty of options at center. The top options at this point are likely Pius Suter, Carl Soderberg, Lucas Wallmark, David Kampf, Ryan Carpenter and Philipp Kurashev.


Strome had just 1 goal and 1 assist in the last 10 games. He also saw under 13 minutes of ice time in three of the last five contests.

Veteran help

Murphy's return will obviously help the Hawks. The veteran was playing some of his best hockey before going on the shelf with a hip issue.

It does create a bit of a logjam on the blue line, but that doesn't bother coach Jeremy Colliton.

"We're able to put guys in the best situations we can," Colliton said, "and the competition for the roles and the ice time that's left over is gonna push them all to be better. And it'll make our team better as well."

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