While speaking with the media after practice on Tuesday afternoon, Blackhawks head coach Luke Richardson was asked about how Jake McCabe is progressing in his rehab from back surgery over this past summer. Richardson’s response was encouraging (that might be an understatement): if he feels good on Friday, McCabe will draw into the lineup in the Blackhawks’ home opener.
There has been some question about the timeline for McCabe’s return over the past month since it was announced he had the procedure done. But this is clearly the best possible news.
On Sept. 13 the Blackhawks announced McCabe would miss 10-12 weeks after cervical spine surgery. But later that week he was on the ice skating before the prospects warming up for the Tom Kurvers Prospect Showcase. Doctors would tell you it take time to be able to get back on the ice after cervical spine surgery, but McCabe was skating, passing and shooting before the rest of the Blackhawks took the ice.
McCabe stayed in a non-contact jersey for most of training camp but joined the rest of his NHL teammates at practice soon thereafter. It was clear to anyone watching him skate that the assumed timeline of around Thanksgiving was nowhere close to reality; he didn’t look far away from being ready.
He clarified for the media that the procedure was done in early August, so we all started counting on our fingers what the timeline would now mean. Some guessed he might be ready by Halloween. Others wondered about the start of the regular season.
Now it appears McCabe could be on the ice with his teammates for the Blackhawks’ home opener on Oct. 21 — just nine days after his 29th birthday.
McCabe appeared in 75 games last year for the Blackhawks, posting four goals with 18 assists.
Richardson noted after practice that he has a good problem of too many bodies available for his blue line. Before McCabe is activated, Chicago already has eight defensemen on the NHL roster. Jarred Tinordi, who was claimed off waivers just before the season began, has worked in well with the group already.
The likelihood that McCabe returns sooner than later made Alex Vlasic‘s roster spot no longer available, so the Blackhawks sent Vlasic to Rockford on Tuesday before practice. Alec Regula and Filip Roos remain with the NHL club, though Regula has been a healthy scratch in the Blackhawks’ last two games.