When Kirby Dach made an ahead-of-schedule return to the Blackhawks this season, there was much rejoicing. And rightfully so. Dach appeared to be playing pretty close to 100%, and was going to be a big help for a team on the outer edge of the playoff picture. But while we were right to be excited about an early return to the lineup, it is a bit concerning to hear how much Dach is apparently still playing through as he prepares for his sixth game of the season tomorrow against the Dallas Stars.
After morning skate on Monday, Dach said that he is still dealing with pain in his surgically repaired wrist, but that he’s not using it as an excuse for his play.
Dach on his wrist: "Obviously there's pain with it. It's a 4-5 month injury and I've been playing with it after 3 months… But I don't see it as an excuse. If I'm playing, I'm expected to be 100% out there."
— Ben Pope (@BenPopeCST) April 5, 2021
Fortunately, his play hasn’t actually been that bad.
Dach has two assists in five games so far and has played 18 or more minutes in three of those five contests. Dach has alson been regularly paired with the likes of Patrick Kane, Alex DeBrincat, Mattias Janmark, and Dylan Strome to begin his season. His skating isn’t an issue, but if he’s still feeling pain in his wrist, it’s clear that his puck handling and distribution can/has/or will be affected.
Perhaps he’s not at risk to injure himself further, but that’s only half the battle.
Jeremy Colliton on if Kirby Dach is at risk of further injury to wrist: "No. There's no way the medical staff and certainly the organization would have (cleared him if he wasn't ready). He's too important for us. And I wouldn’t be in favor of playing him if that were a concern."
— John Dietz (@johndietzdh) April 5, 2021
He’s a young, hungry hockey player, so it’s no surprise that once he was given the green light from team doctors, he was on the ice. Returning a month ahead of schedule from a surgery to jump right into an NHL lineup is no small feat. Dach’s return likely is on his own accord, meaning he likely told the Blackhawks he was ready and willing to get back in the lineup. His return is one of the reasons that Chicago was given more optimism that the playoffs weren’t too far out of reach for the Blackhawks.
But if the pain persists through the next handful of games, a time when the Blackhawks are trying to climb back into the final playoff spot in the Central Division, Dach could potentially push himself too far or expose himself to re-injury, which could lead to more troubling complications for him and for Chicago down the line. I still lean on the side that he’ll be just fine, but it’s something that will stick in the back of my mind knowing that he’s still operating at less than 100%.