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Connor Bedard's timeline for return to Blackhawks starting to crystallize

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Chicago Blackhawks rookie forward Connor Bedard was originally put on a 6-8-week timetable after undergoing jaw surgery on Jan. 8. On Monday, he hit the five-week mark, and his timeline for a return is starting to crystallize.

After practice on Monday, Blackhawks head coach Luke Richardson said Bedard will remain in a non-contact jersey this week but the hope is that he will be cleared for contact next week. His return to game action shouldn't be too long after that.

"He'll need a few practices once he gets released from that," Richardson said. "And then he'll be ready to go."

Bedard is expected to have what the team hopes is his final doctor's appointment either at the end of this week or early next week. The imaging scan is the final hurdle, considering Bedard has been skating and ramping things up for weeks now.

Richardson didn't want to put a specific target date for Bedard's potential return, but when asked whether the Feb. 25 game against Detroit — Chris Chelios' number retirement night and Patrick Kane's return to the United Center — is a possibility, he responded: "We're hoping sometime in that timeframe.

"That would be exciting," Richardson continued. "Knowing him, he'll try to get back before which would be great. But we're just going to leave it as is and in the doctor's hands until next Monday to kind of go from there."

The Blackhawks are scheduled to play in Carolina on Feb. 19, and Richardson said it "probably" won't be that game.

"That's right on the deadline and I'm not sure if he's going to be able to get to a doctor on the six-week mark and get himself to Carolina," Richardson said before quipping: "He might, but I don't know if that'll happen."

The Blackhawks have home games on Feb. 21 vs. Philadelphia and Feb. 23 vs. Winnipeg. The 21st or 23rd appear to be the most likely options.

And of course, Bedard will be wearing a face shield upon his return.

"Yeah, for a while, for sure," Richardson said. "I don't know how long, but I mean, I think till he feels comfortable and the doctors feel comfortable."

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