Bedard will play for the Blackhawks for the first time since January 5

chicago — Connor Bedard will be in the Chicago Blackhawks lineup for the first time since Jan. 5 when they play the Pittsburgh Penguins at United Center on Thursday (8:30 p.m. ET; SN-PIT, NBCSCH, SN360).

The 18-year-old center was recovering from a broken jaw suffered as a result of a hit from New Jersey Devils defenseman Brendan Smith in the first period of a 4-2 loss at the Prudential Center.

Coach Luke Richardson said Monday that Bedard could return next week. Asked Thursday what had changed in recent days, Richardson said: “He had a doctor's appointment in the morning and afternoon (Wednesday), one just had an examination and the other finally met with the doctor late in the day. We didn't know much until then and we had to get him through the next step early this morning, get him into a little fight. He said he was fine. As always, he was ready to come back but we wanted to make sure he put up a little bit of a fight and we talked to him about protecting himself a little bit out there, as everyone should.

“He's a puck-possessing guy, so you're putting his stick on the puck on the ice a lot of times. He's got to be aware, especially this time of year. He's fast. So we tried it out with some guys and myself this morning, and we asked him afterward and he said, '” “Yes, I feel good, I feel good. And he didn't feel ashamed of anything. He got to the front of the net in fight training and looked good. He looked like himself, so he's keen to go.”

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Bedard underwent surgery on January 8, and Monday will see six weeks of recovery; Its original timeline was 6-8 weeks. He said on February 7 that he was prepared to participate in a full practice while at Wrigley Field to help announce that the Blackhawks would play the St. Louis Blues in the 2025 Discover NHL Winter Classic at the home of MLB's Chicago Cubs.

“I mean I feel good and ready but obviously there's a process to it,” Bedard said that day. “Obviously anyone who is in pain will say it's frustrating, but I'm trying to do everything I can and be ready when I get back.

“Not getting injured is good, but I think you want to try to be as positive as possible. I'm telling you that, but there were some times when I was upset, of course. But after a week [the injury]I'm back on the ice. This is definitely a positive thing.”

Bedard began skating alone on Jan. 15, wearing a full face shield and a green non-contact jersey. He began participating in non-contact portions of practice on Feb. 6, but had to sit out the injury until Thursday, when he did so against Richardson and some additional players.

As for how long Bedard will wear the face shield, Richardson said: “I don’t know. Maybe that's the schedule for doctors. It will likely take a few weeks, a month, or maybe a few months.

Despite missing more than five weeks, Bedard is tied with Minnesota Wild defenseman Brock Faber for first place among NHL rookies with 33 points (15 goals, 18 assists) in 39 games. Wild striker Marco Rossi ranks third with 29 points (14 goals and 15 assists) in 53 games.

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Bedard, the No. 1 pick in the 2023 NHL Draft, has been selected to participate in the 2024 Honda (US)/Rogers (CAN) NHL All-Star Game in Toronto on February 3. Although he couldn't play, Bedard attended the festivities. He was a special guest at the NHL All-Star Skills at Scotiabank Arena the day before. staff writer Tracy Myers contributed to this report

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