NEWARK, N.J. — Connor Bedard never saw Devils defenseman Brendan Smith coming on Friday.
Shortly after the Blackhawks rookie carried the ball into the offensive zone during the first period against the Devils, Smith stepped up and delivered a crushing high kick.
Bedard immediately skated to the bench holding his face and went straight to the locker room. Meanwhile, Nick Foligno, Brett Seney and a number of other teammates sparked a brawl behind the net.
Bedard did not return for the second half and was ruled out of the game, which the Hawks ended up losing 4-2.
Things got worse in the second period when Foligno, the Hawks' de facto captain, engaged Smith in a long battle to defend Bedard and injured himself in the process. Foligno never returned after that.
Coach Luke Richardson didn't have much of an update on Bedard or Foligno after the game, saying they would be “examined further” upon their return to Chicago.
“I heard nothing but that everyone was going home to-night; “Everyone is good to go home,” Richardson said. “There's not much we can do except bring them home, take them to our specialists and see if everything is okay.”
It is the first time in his NHL career that Bedard has suffered an injury. The 18-year-old appeared in the Hawks' first 38 games without a break, averaging 19 minutes and 29 seconds of ice time. It only lasted 3:05 on Friday.
Hawks forward Boris Kashuk said “everyone saw” Smith's hit was “sloppy”, but Richardson was less convinced.
“I don “t think so [Smith] “I stepped on him,” Richardson said. “I think he kind of stopped, and Connor bumped his head into him.”
Hours before Friday, Bedard discussed his candidacy as the Hawks' representative at the All-Star Game, clearly unaware of what the rest of the day had in store for him.
“I'm happy to announce this,” Bedard said before the match. “Obviously it's been a bit frustrating in our group lately with the results of the games. It's good to go out there and meet some of these guys, so it should be fun.
The injuries to Bedard and Foligno continue a ridiculous streak of bad luck for the Hawks, who lost their forwards to in-game injuries in four of five games on a winless road trip.
The Hawks' injury list now includes Taylor Hall (out for the season after ACL surgery), Andreas Athanasiou (out since November 9 with a hip injury), Seth Jones (out since December 10 with a left shoulder injury), and Joey Anderson (out since 17 December due to an injury to his left shoulder), Taylor Radish (groin), Tyler Johnson (right foot), Anthony Beauvillier (left wrist), Foligno and Bedard. The only good news Friday was Richardson saying Radish has begun skating on his own.
Without Bedard and Foligno, the red-hot Hawks played inspired to keep the game competitive, but their roster looks comically short-term moving forward, pending how much time (if any) Bedard will miss. Their schedule this weekend includes a home practice on Saturday before a home game on Sunday against the Flames.
The Hawks' injured players' total turnover is nearly equal to the cap of their healthy players, and Philipp Kurashev (22 points) and Jason Dickinson (who scored his 19th point on Friday) are the top scorers available at the moment.
“If you look at our roster, it seems like we're having it a little worse than others, but guys have to step up — including me,” defenseman Jared Tinordi said.
In Rockford, whose roster has been equally decimated by the number of Hawks call-ups, the next forwards in line will likely be Mike Hardman, David Jost, and Anders Bjork, the last of whom will need to convert his AHL-only contract. . Coyotes forward Zach Sanford, who has 316 games of NHL experience and was placed on waivers on Friday, could also be an option.
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