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Why Blackhawks' Connor Murphy is pushing to make return from groin injury before season ends

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For the first time in nearly three months, Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Connor Murphy practiced with the team in full on Friday at Fifth Third Arena. He's been out since Jan. 19 with a groin injury that was originally supposed to sideline him for only a few weeks.

"It's been long," Murphy said of his recovery process. "It's been tough. When I got hurt, I was telling guys I would be back in a week or two and day by day expecting to be back. And there was no timeline the whole injury, so it was literally one of those for the past two and a half months wondering: 'Is today the day it's better and you can play?' And here, finally we're back to going with the guys, so it's nice."

Murphy's injury was different from Andreas Athanasiou's, who missed four months himself with a groin injury. Murphy said he was dealing with an osteitis pubis injury, which is what San Jose Sharks star Logan Couture has been sidelined with practically all season.

Murphy was put in touch with Couture through teammate Jaycob Megna, who played with Couture in San Jose. He was able to pick his brain and figure out a plan of attack.

"He's had a really hard go with his [injury] and missed pretty much the whole season," Murphy said. "Mine wasn't as bad as his with the levels of pain and stuff. You feel [for] guys with frustration, but it's nice to know you're not the only one going through a confusing time trying to figure it out and know how to handle a certain injury. Him and other players, it's what makes it cool with the league to be able to talk to guys on figuring out game plans and different recovery methods and having different people to get advice from."

Murphy was willing to do anything and everything to get back to feeling like himself. He took a cortisone shot, a PRP injection, rested, tried core exercises and stretching. And anytime he started to feel good, he would suffer a setback trying to take the next step.

"There were so many times where I would, off the ice, take time off and the pain would good away and I would feel good," Murphy said. "And as soon as I would try to ramp it up with certain exercises, I'd feel pain back again. It was a deceiving thing where I would be home and get really optimistic and feel great, and then as soon as I go to activate and use certain areas of my hips, it would inflame.

"I had a lot of those moments up and down and then finally got to the point where I could stack consistent days in the last little while and have a good routine and process to gain strength and get rest to be able to get to this point."

Murphy isn't expected to play over the weekend, but he is targeting next week as a potential return date. That'll probably be up to the coaching and medical staff.

"Today he graduated even more into almost a full practice compared to Wednesday, so that's good — one more step closer," Blackhawks head coach Luke Richardson said. "He's got some repetition to go now to make sure everything's stable and more contact in practice over the next week or two, and hopefully he gets back in before the end."

It would have been easy for Murphy to shut it down for the season and get 100 percent healthy, that way he's not spending his offseason rehabbing. But it was important for him to push to get back before the campaign ended, even though there's really nothing to play for.

"Everyone says you get toward the end and people think it's meaningless games," Murphy said. "But I think as a player, there's always something to play for, even as a teammate just trying to work as hard every day, no matter where you're at health wise, to try and come back and be with the guys and help the guys and just show that you want to be a part of the solution and not just a part of the problem sitting out and not caring, letting guys going through a tough season on their own.

"I always just wanted to get 100 percent whenever that was. And obviously pushing to get in shape to be able to play was very important for me. It'll feel really good to be 100 percent playing games and just feel like you kind of overcame an injury and were able to kind of battle it out, whether it's mentally or physically."

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