“I’m feeling good,” said Kurashev, who has been recovering from a left wrist injury. “Excited to finally be back. It was a hard time, but now I’m really happy.”
On the other hand, top-liner Taylor Hall sat out practice.
His left shoulder has continued to bother him since taking a hard blindside hit in Boston the second game of the season.
“He’s going to be out for a bit, we’re not sure how long,” coach Luke Richardson said. “He was trying to play through it, and instead of making him still try to do that, you could always have a risk of him hurting it worse or something else protecting it.
“(Hall’s) going to take the next few games and then we’ll go week-to-week to see how he’s doing.”
Kurashev hopes to play in Tuesday’s home game against the Boston Bruins.
“I feel good today and I think even better tomorrow, so we’ll see,” he said.
Richardson was optimistic but cautious.
The Hawks want to see how Kurashev reacts after taking some contact during drills.
“We’re going to see how he looks in the morning to double-check and make sure,” Richardson said. “He looked good out there today, but it’s practice, not a game.”
Here are three things we learned from Monday’s practice.
1. It was tough for Philipp Kurashev to watch from the sidelines.
Kurashev scored the first goal in the preseason opener against the St. Louis Blues on Sept. 28, but hurt his left wrist at some point during the game.
“Just a battle in the corner but I don’t even actually know exactly how,” he said Monday. “I just felt the pain and it kept coming.”
At the time, it didn’t enter his mind that the injury would cost him the rest of training camp and the first six games of the season.
“No, I had no clue,” he said. “I practiced the next day too and it just kept hurting.”
Kurashev signed a two-year, $4.5 million contract in July and was expected to take the next step in his development.
But he was held out of morning skate before the Hawks’ preseason game in Minnesota on Sept. 30, then was placed on injured reserve Oct. 9.
His absence has been difficult.
“It’s the worst, especially after last season, at the end of the season, I was hurt too,” said Kurashev, who missed the final 11 games with a shoulder injury. “And then first game back I get hurt again in preseason, so it’s not fun.
“It’s more hard mentally because you can’t be with the guys, especially on that long road trip, 11 days,” he said. “It was pretty tough, but now I’m happy to be back.”
Richardson said, “We want to give Kurshy a chance to get in and not just throw him on that line right away without having played since the first exhibition game.”
2. Colin Blackwell dealt with setback after setback.
Blackwell was back at practice playing fully with the team Monday for the first time since sports hernia surgery March 23.
“I’m feeling good,” he said. “It’s the first time in a while that I’ve felt pretty good.
“So last week or so I’ve been able to take my dog for a walk in the morning without any pain and be able to get on the ice and skate.”
He missed the final 23 games of last season and has been plagued by hiccups in his recovery.
“The summer kind of sucked,” he said. He got hurt Feb. 27 in Anaheim, “and then I didn’t get the surgery until March. And then I was here all summer doing rehab and had a couple of setbacks.
“And then before training camp, after a setback, I was just trying to skate. So when training camp (arrived), hopefully I could get over the hump, and unfortunately I had another setback. So it was very frustrating.”
Meanwhile, the team was changing around him with an influx of rookies and veteran newcomers.
“For the last eight months, I haven’t really been able to control that much,” he said.
When asked how mentally challenging the process was, he choked up.
“Yeah, it’s been pretty draining, to be quite honest with you,” Blackwell said. “Basically, my family, wife … they’ve been awesome. A lot of the guys, too. They’ve been unreal.”
Blackwell added, “I’ve had the game taken away from me before — I don’t take much for granted anymore,” he said. “When you have a lower-body injury like I had, you can’t really go for a walk without any pain or anything along those lines.
“It can be definitely grueling. For me, it was just being able to be a normal human being a little bit before I could jump back on the ice. I probably took six months off from skating because I couldn’t do the (workout) stuff upstairs that I needed to do in order to prepare myself for ice.
“It’s been a long, long journey, but I feel pretty comfortable I’m getting over the hump here.”
Richardson knows how hard it’s been for Blackwell.
“For athletes, it’s such a lot of work put in, and he’s an emotional player, even more than some guys are,” he said. “He puts everything in on the ice. …
“He’s just been so disappointed that it hasn’t been quicker, and I’m sure that’s why he’s frustrated.”
Still, there’s no timeline for when Blackwell will be game-ready.
“I haven’t really thought that far ahead or anything along those lines,” he said. “Like I said, I took my dog for a walk this morning and I felt good. I was out walking and not taking anti-inflammatory stuff.
“I feel as close to myself as I remember, what I used to be.”
Breaking the lineup will be a challenge, given how much time he’s missed.
“I’m a realist, I’m pretty behind schedule,” Blackwell said. “But at the same time, I’m a gamer. So whenever I get thrown in there, or if I get that opportunity, I’ll be ready.”
3. Connor Bedard’s line shuffles — again.
With Kurashev in and Hall out, the Hawks took the opportunity to jumble the forward lines again.
During Monday’s practice, Bedard centered the top line with Nick Foligno (left wing) and Tyler Johnson (right), and Taylor Raddysh moved to the second line with Andreas Athanasiou (left) and Lukas Reichel (center).
“Nick’s been playing great and Tyler’s a smart player, and we thought we’re going to try that,” Richardson said.
“The last few games, we haven’t gotten the job done. We’ve played two really good teams. We’re still going to try to find something that’ll get us over that hump right now with a guy like Taylor (Hall) out and see just what works.
“Nick has been playing well and Tyler is always a reliable, responsible guy who knows how to play with really high-end players. … We want to give that a shot.”
Bedard’s combination with Hall and Donato has produced two goals and one against, according to NaturalStatTrick.com.
Richardson’s not worried about the lack of continuity for the rookie.
“A guy like him, he’s used to playing a lot, and that means he’s jumping out with different lines. He’s used to that,” Richardson said of Bedard. “He’s a smart player that sees the ice well, so I don’t know if it really matters at this point.
However, Richardson added, “The power play is probably something that we need to find units that work well together, and that takes a little time too.”