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Connor Bedard’s fractured jaw leaves the injury-riddled Chicago Blackhawks trying to regroup: ‘It’s just shock almost’

Jason Dickinson saw the hit, but he couldn’t foresee the impact.

During Friday’s 4-2 road loss to the New Jersey Devils, Chicago Blackhawks rookie Connor Bedard took a hard hit from Devils defenseman Brendan Smith and skated off the ice at the Prudential Center holding his face.

“I was more afraid of a concussion, that’s what I was thinking,” Dickinson said. “I was like, ‘Ah, he’s holding his face. He must have gotten rattled, like, in his head. Didn’t think jaw at all.”

The news came down later that night in the arena: Bedard suffered a fractured jaw and would go on injured reserve. The injury occurred about 24 hours after Bedard, the No. 1 pick in the draft, was named an NHL All-Star.

“Connor was just really upset last night,” Dickinson said after practice Saturday at Fifth Third Arena. “That’s pretty much all I talked to him about was just staying positive and being OK with where he’s at.”

And there was more bad news.

Linemate Nick Foligno suffered a fractured finger on his left hand while scrapping with Smith in defense of Bedard.

“Nick, also just extremely frustrated and rattled that it happened because — I don’t know how many fights he’s been in this year, but of course this (is) one that he goes and gets hurt,” Dickinson said. “He’s tough, so I don’t think it’ll hold him out very long.

“As soon as he’s strong enough to hold a stick, I’m sure he’ll be out there with us.”

Added Lukas Reichel: “It’s tough to see. They’re a big piece of our team and really good players.”

Coach Luke Richardson couldn’t pin either to an estimated timeline.

“(Bedard’s) just having that looked after now, and we’re not sure how long him and Nick will be,” he said.

The Hawks aren’t just trying to summon strength right now, they’re trying to find bodies.

Five Hawks were injured during the five-game trip: Taylor Raddysh (left groin strain, Dec. 29 in Dallas), Tyler Johnson (right foot, Sunday in Dallas), Anthony Beauvillier (left wrist, Tuesday in Nashville, Tenn.), and Bedard and Foligno on Friday in New Jersey.

That’s not to mention three top contributors who are still on IR: Seth Jones, Andreas Athanasiou and Joey Anderson.

All but Jones are forwards.

“I never seen anything like that,” Reichel said. “Not even just that road trip. I mean the whole season. I’d have never seen so many injuries.”

Dickinson described the mood on the plane ride home.

“Honestly, it was just shock almost and disbelief that we can’t get through a game, we can’t get through a whole road trip. It’s crazy,” he said. “We lost, what was it, four guys on this road trip? Was it five? As much as it sucks losing that game last night, we don’t know what else to say at the end of the day. We just can’t stay healthy, we can’t keep guys on the ice. So the vibe was just shock.

“Last year was difficult — we thought. Seems like nothing compared to this now. I mean, you can’t really pin it. It’s not one thing or little chronic things or things from over-fatigue or things that have kind of been overworked or anything. They’re big.

“Radds is probably the one hockey injury that’s normal, the groin injury. Everything else is substantial and time. It’s not a week. It’s weeks and more.”

The Hawks on Saturday acquired forward Rem Pitlick from the Pittsburgh Penguins for a 2026 conditional seventh-round draft pick.

But in all practicality, Dickinson and Richardson are left to lead a battered roster that includes recent call-ups from Rockford and in Jaycob Megna’s case, a waiver claim.

The Hawks might have to go with 11 forwards and seven defensemen out of necessity.

“We’re always looking and searching, but that’s an ongoing process for management,” Richardson said. “Everyone’s a little banged up from a lot of hockey, and we have a lot of hockey to go here before our break to get a little rest. We have to try and manage that problem.”

Here are five things we learned about Bedard — as well as the next steps for the Hawks — on Saturday.

1. Bedard’s jaw likely will be wired.

Richardson didn’t delve into details about the severity of Bedard’s injury or the exact location of the fracture.

But Richardson is more than familiar with broken jaws. He had one in his playing days and, as a coach, he dealt with defenseman’s Jarred Tinordi broken jaw last winter.

“I’m assuming he would have to have some kind of wiring or protection for not a lot of movement,” Richardson said of Bedard. “It’s not like it used to be where it’s wired tightly shut. They usually put cribs in on the top and the bottom, and they put rubber bands so you can only open it a little bit. ... So I think it helps more in the recovery.”

Richardson cautioned that every broken bone heals differently based on the player — his jaw “broke right in half. Two plates and 15 screws. Set off the alarms and metal detectors.”

After taking a slap shot to the face during a game against the Dallas Stars on Dec. 21, 2005, when Richardson was with the Columbus Blue Jackets. He was wired “about 5 1/2 weeks and had to wear a cage after that, too, just to prevent more damage.

“It’s healed enough that it’s stronger than it was before, but you still have to let it not have a first-contact blow. So (Bedard will) probably wear some kind of cage or jaw protection when he comes back.”

2. Bedard gets ‘a tough lesson’ about protecting himself.

“It’s a tough lesson, but the league’s tough,” Richardson said.

The coach noted that Bedard easily could’ve had an encounter the game before with headhunter New York Rangers defenseman Jacob Trouba, infamous for a collision last season that left Andreas Athanasiou hospitalized.

Bedard has learned from previous hits to keep his head on a swivel, but Richardson wasn’t sure that’s the case here.

“I don’t know if he really put himself in a bad spot,” he said. “The puck just got away from him ahead of him a little bit and really it wasn’t a blindsided blow. I think it just caught him in the right spot. Sometimes if you have your mouth open, breathing, it’s in a weak position and more susceptible to those injuries.

“And that’s a big guy. (Bedard) ran facefirst into his shoulder, but he wasn’t really moving forward too much. He just kind of stood up but he wasn’t coming at him 25 miles an hour the other way or sideways. That’s a good thing.”

After the game, Boris Katchouk called Smith’s play “dirty.”

“I don’t think it was malice,” Richardson said. “He just tried to tuck his elbow in and take the body and stop him more than hit him. You just saw the size difference there.”

3. It’s bad timing for Bedard — and the NHL.

Before Friday’s game, Bedard spoke for the first time about being named the youngest player in history selected to the NHL All-Star roster.

“It’s exciting and something you watch growing up,” he said.

A few hours later, he was knocked out of the game, and his injury casts serious doubt he’ll be able to participate in the league showcase in Toronto from Feb. 1-3.

“The whole event is like such a cool thing,” Reichel said. “And yet, it’s sad to see it as he gets injured now and I can’t join in. … So many fans are going to be disappointed, too, that he’s not on the ice.”

Richardson said the league probably would still want him around the festivities of All-Star weekend.

“He might not be able to participate but it’d be good for him to get to go,” he said.

Then there’s just the emotional impact for Bedard, who sometimes has to be ordered off the ice.

“It’s horrible,” Ryan Donato said. “He’s a kid that loves being around the rink, being around the game. Taking that away from him I’m sure is a big blow to him and to us. It’s definitely hard to wrap our heads around.”

Reichel said he saw Bedard after the injury and “I just give him a little clap on the leg, just a heads up. You know, come back strong.”

Richardson saw Bedard briefly during both intermissions, “and he was getting undressed to get looked at and just asked him if he was OK, and he kind of looked at me like he was OK, but he wasn’t OK.

“I don’t know how he is. He hasn’t been here today. I think he went to see doctors today (Saturday) at the hospital. We’ll probably get more news on him tomorrow.”

Whatever the prognosis, Richardson advises Bedard to lean on teammates to help cope while he works through his recovery.

“He’ll be able to be on the ice,” Richardson said. “That’ll be good for him because it’ll get a lot of that restless energy that he’s going to have. He likes to be with the team, likes to be on the ice. It’s a blow and he’s young.

“He’s going to need his teammates and his family more than ever to support him and comfort him.”

4. How are the Hawks coping?

“Exercise and wine,” Richardson quipped.

Reichel looked at a stall in Fifth Third Arena: “We sit next to each other here. We talk a lot about hockey. I mean, we see each other every day in practice. So yeah, it’s just tough to see that he’s not playing. It’s definitely disappointing.”

Dickinson fought emotions while describing the plane ride back from Newark, N.J.

“It was just different,” he said. “Like a couple of us are just sitting there talking about everything. We laugh, like, what else is there to do? It’s just comical at this point that bodies just keep dropping for us and we can’t catch a break.

“So what else do you do but laugh at it? This is just unbelievable, right?”

Added Richardson: “We had just a little meeting this morning and put it into their heads that they have to believe.”

To that point, players said they’ll huddle up if the team needs it, if players lose confidence. Donato said players down the depth chart have to step up and realize their opportunities.

“We’ve had so many injuries, but you can’t feel sorry for yourself,” he said. “There’s teams that are going through injuries as well and teams that have in the past.

“So we’re going to rely on the guys that have been around a bit and their experience. … You can’t worry about who’s in or out of the lineup, you’ve just got to be ready to play.”

5. Backup is on the way.

Dickinson surveyed the locker room for a few teammates who are still on injured reserve but skated Friday, and he wished out loud: “Hope that the guys that were here (at practice) are a lot closer than I thought they were, because we need reinforcements.

“We need anybody at this point, because it’s thin,” he said. “It’s hard on a lot of guys. We were playing 10 forwards for most of the game last night. We need guys to step up and help steer the ship now.”

The Hawks shipped in a couple of reinforcements Saturday: Pitlick and fellow forward Zach Sanford.

Pitlick, 26, had eight goals and 16 assists in 32 games for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins this season. He has recorded 21 goals and 33 assists in 123 regular-season NHL games for the Nashville Predators (2019-21), Minnesota Wild (2021-22) and Montreal Canadiens (2022-23).

“We’re hoping to get him in tonight and play tomorrow,” Richardson said. “I know him a little bit from Montreal. A lot of speed and he’s a character guy. He’s not a big guy (5-foot-11, 202 pounds) but he has speed and experience playing in the league.

“That’ll be a good boost just to have someone who I know a little bit, but I think that can add different dimensions.”

Sanford’s addition was announced after practice. He was claimed off waivers from the Arizona Coyotes. Sanford (6-4, 206 pounds) skated in 11 games and tallied two assists for the Coyotes this season.

The 29-year-old has racked up 49 goals and 51 assists in 316 regular-season NHL games, split between the Washington Capitals (2016-17), St. Louis Blues (2017-21), Ottawa Senators (2021-22), Winnipeg Jets (2022), Nashville Predators (2022-23) and Coyotes (2023-24).

As for several veterans who’ve been on the shelf, the Hawks can see light at the end of the tunnel.

Dickinson said seeing Jones, Anderson and Raddysh skating — those aforementioned veterans who are on IR — provided a lift for the team, even though at this stage they’re only skating for conditioning.

“Everybody, as soon as we saw them walk in the room, it was like, ‘How you doing? How you feeling? How close do you think you are? Can you push it a little?’ ” Dickinson said.

“We’re definitely excited and hopeful that their progression continues to go well.”