Blackhawks' Andreas Athanasiou details recovery process from groin injury: ‘A lot of sleepless nights'

Blackhawks' Andreas Athanasiou details recovery process from groin injury: ‘A lot of sleepless nights' originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

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Chicago Blackhawks forward Andreas Athanasiou is officially out of a non-contact jersey and practiced with the team in full on Tuesday for the first time in three and a half months.

Athanasiou has been sidelined with a groin injury since Nov. 9, and his recovery process included a couple setbacks. Needless to say, it hasn't been easy on him to mentally stay positive during it all.

"I think any injury, obviously some are worse than others, but it was pretty nagging," Athanasiou said. "Obviously there was a lot of sleepless nights and a lot of achy days where you just go home and you just ache but that's part of it.

"There's a million thoughts that go through your head. I mean, I spent a lot of time at home and  you sit on the couch and you think a lot, right? So it's going home from the rink and you're aching and you're in pain and you're just thinking about it the whole time. It's never a fun feeling. There's so many doubts and thoughts that go through your head, it's kind of just put those in the back of your head and try to keep it as away from the work as possible.

"There's a time to think and there's a time to work. I went home and I thought about it, whether it was bad thoughts or good thoughts, whatever it was, and came to the rink the next day and just really focused on working. That kind of takes your head away from it and go home and think about it all day again. That's pretty much it."

Athanasiou dealt with a similar injury when he was with Los Angeles, but this one was on the other leg. His rehab process this time around was multi-layered.

"There's a lot of different things," Athanasiou said. "It's been so long. We did so many things. At the start, we didn't really think it was that bad, and it didn't feel that bad. And that was kind of a tough part, we were pushing it to get back, and then finally image it and showed what was wrong with it. And it was pretty good, pretty good injury to that right hip, that right groin. It sucked, but there's nothing you can do about it."

Athanasiou didn't have any procedures done, which is a positive. But he's not totally out of the woods just yet.

"It'll be good once it's once it's good," Athanasiou said. "I can feel it's still a little bit nagging. But every day it gets better. And I think once I’m back, I don't think it'll be an issue."

The Blackhawks have missed Athanasiou's speed, particularly on the power play. Zone entries have been a problem all season long and he could've helped in that department.

Even at practice on Tuesday, Blackhawks head coach Luke Richardson singled out a drill where the team worked on their defense that quickly transitioned into offense, and Athanasiou made a couple "slick skilled plays" and "snuck into a few areas" because of his skating ability.

"I saw that and I'm like, 'Oh yeah, we do miss that in a game,'" Richardson said. "He had 20 goals last year and he probably could've had closer to 25-30 easily on the opportunities that he created on breakaways or turnovers in the O-zone just with his speed. That speed is the way the game is played now and he can be an integral part for sure."

There's no target date for Athanasiou's return. He and the Blackhawks are taking it day by day. But when he is cleared to play, Athanasiou doesn't expect to be limited.

"If and when I'm back, obviously I'll be sure that I'll be ready to go, so that's the first thing," Athanasiou said. "Obviously when you deal with something for so long and something so nagging, it gets in your head and you think about it all the time. But I think it's come a long way.

"It's getting better. I'm almost back up to speed and it's just kind of getting that last little pop and should be good to go."

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