CHICAGO — A five-city, nine-night road trip over two calendar years can drain any player physically and emotionally. But the Blackhawks' flight home from Newark on Friday night was especially quiet, especially lazy.
Not only did the Blackhawks lose all five games on the trip, but they also lost five key forwards to injury — the latest brutal blow. Blackhawks rookie sensation Connor Bedard, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 draft, suffered a broken jaw during Friday's game when Brendan Smith stepped into him as he crossed the blue line on a power-play rush. New Jersey.
Bedard was examined by team doctors on Saturday and is out indefinitely as the Blackhawks placed him on injured reserve.
“It's pathetic,” center Jason Dickinson said. “I feel really bad for him. He's had a good year and he's really good. He really loves the game.”
The Blackhawks did not provide a timeline for Bedard's return, but Blue Jackets captain Boone Jenner suffered the same injury on Dec. 9 and returned to practice Saturday wearing a full face shield. Jenner was expected to miss six weeks. Blackhawks coach Luke Richardson said his jaw “broke in the right half” when he took a slap to the face during his playing days. He had his jaw wired shut and metal plates and 15 screws were inserted into his skull. He was back in action at 5 1/2 weeks.
Bedard's similar schedule means he will miss the Feb. 3 All-Star Game in Toronto. Bedard is the youngest player in NHL history to be named an All-Star. Dickinson, instead, already has a career-high 13 goals. Richardson hopes Bedard will still travel to Toronto for part of the festivities.
Although the process may not be as rigorous and controlled as it was in Richardson's time, Richardson said it's safe to assume Bedard will have some jaw wiring.
Bedard will definitely sport a full face shield when he returns.
“It's horrible,” forward Ryan Donato said. “He's a kid who loves being around the rink and loves being around the game. I think it's a big blow for him and for us to take that away from him. It's definitely hard to wrap our heads around. We're still very new to understanding what's going on, but we hope for the best for him, and Hopefully we can keep the guys positive.
Bedard, the No. 1 pick in the 2023 draft and one of the hottest prospects in recent memory, has been everything the Blackhawks hoped he would be, with 15 goals and 18 assists in 39 games, including a lacrosse-style goal on Dec. 23 at St. He immediately became the face of the franchise, drawing sold-out crowds – no. Full of 98 jerseys – he brought back to the United Center. In a season filled with frustration and misery, Bedard has given the Blackhawks and their fans something to cling to.
Without him, things look very bleak.
Bedard now joins an almost ridiculous list of injured Blackhawks. Their top line, eight of their top 12 forwards and their No. 1 defenseman, Seth Jones, are currently injured. Injuries include Taylor Hall (out for the season after knee surgery), Tyler Johnson (foot), Andreas Athanasiou (hip), Anthony Beauvillier (wrist), Taylor Radish (hip), Joey Anderson (shoulder) and Nick Foligno. Broke his finger in Friday's game — during a retaliatory fight with the Devils' Smith.
The Blackhawks' cap hit on injured reserve is more than $35 million. The cap hit for those remaining on the active roster is just over $32 million. And that doesn't count Corey Perry, who was kicked off the team in November for what the team described as a workplace incident.
“A couple of us were right there (on the flight home) talking about everything,” Dickinson said. “We laughed, what else to do? It's funny at this point that bodies are springing for us and we can't catch a break. So what else are you going to do, laugh at it? It's unbelievable, right?
The Blackhawks sent a conditional 2026 seventh-round pick to Pittsburgh for Rem Pitlick, who had 8 goals and 16 assists in 32 games with the AHL's Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins this season. Pitlik is expected to play Sunday. With so many forwards gone, the Blackhawks may need to wear seven defensemen, although they claimed forward Zach Sanford off waivers from Arizona so he could fill out the roster. Sanford has scored 49 goals in 316 career games with six teams.
On the bright side, Jones, Radish and Anderson all skated after Saturday's practice. When the Blackhawks walked into the locker room in the fifth third and saw the trio put on their skates, it was an instant lift for a team in need of some good news.
“Everyone, as soon as they see them walk into the room, they say, 'How do you look, how do you feel, how close do you think you are, can you push it a little bit?' Dickinson laughed.
On how she personally deals with the rash of bruises, Richardson said, “Exercise and alcohol. I did not lie.”
(Photo: Rich Graessle / NHLI via Getty Images)