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Chicago Blackhawks’ Andreas Athanasiou progresses with injury

Andreas Athanasiou has been sidelined for almost four months with what he calls a hip/groin injury, but the Chicago Blackhawks forward thinks the end is near.

“Yeah, I’m definitely getting closer every day, so it’s definitely a good feeling,” he said after attending practice at Fifth Third Arena on Tuesday.

Coach Luke Richardson later said he had spoken to Athanasiou but could not predict a timeframe for his return to the squad.

“It was even more of an up-tempo workout and some physicality, and he got into all of that,” Richardson said. “It was nice to see, but I don’t have a timetable yet.”

Athanasiou played the second period of the game on November 9 against the Tampa Bay Lightning. It was an accumulation of factors.

“I had a pretty weird fall in Tampa, which was probably a big part of it,” he said. “I’m lucky it didn’t – of course it still sucked – but it wasn’t as bad as it looked.”

Athanasiou suffered groin problems with the Los Angeles Kings during the 2021-22 season, but said that this injury was irrelevant.

“This was the other leg, a different part of the leg,” he said. “But it’s a little different. Frankly, it was very frustrating. Being a skater is my strongest suit and not being able to skate is definitely not a good feeling.”

Richardson said there was no sign of a major problem occurring before Nov. 9, “but he did say in training camp that he stepped on a puck or a stick and made a move from the lower body to one of the legs.

“He was there for a while and he was getting better, but then he did something in the game in Tampa. … He went down the tunnel, got checked out, came back.”

Richardson knew something was wrong when he fast-forwarded the escape.

“I could almost see him startle as he walked across the ice with one leg, and he had to turn left and shoot at the goal,” he said. “He would definitely be in there most nights.”

Athanasiou said he did not have a procedure, relying only on rest and various treatments.

“We’ve done a lot,” he said. “We didn’t really think it was that bad, and it didn’t feel that bad.”

The Hawks initially expected him to return in December but did not see sufficient progress. He was starting to get angry and it was affecting him both on the field and at home.

“It was pretty disturbing,” Athanasiou said. “Of course you had a lot of sleepless nights and sore days when you got home, but that’s part of the job.”

“It can certainly be a long time when there is uncertainty about exactly what the problem is or how to approach solving the problem,” Richardson said.

Athanasiou got his doctor, who had been working with the Kings, to take another look.

“We finally filmed it and it showed what was wrong,” he said. “And it was a pretty good injury to the right hip, right groin. It sucks, but there’s nothing you can do about it.”

But “after we got the MRI, we realized what was going on and went from there.”

For much of Athanasiou’s recovery (114 days and counting), there was a battle on two fronts: physical and mental.

He felt underdog during that stretch, where the Hawks had eight forwards, including himself. Connor Bedardand defenseman Seth Jones injured reserve.

“This was definitely one of the toughest times and you see everyone is out there and you can’t go out and help,” he said.

Having missed 47 matches, Athanasiou had nothing left but time.

“There are millions of thoughts going through your head,” he said. “I spent a lot of time at home and you’re sitting on the couch and thinking a lot, right? So you come home from the track, you’re sore, you’re in pain, and you think about it the whole time.

“There are so many doubts and thoughts running through your head that you just put them in the back of your head and try to keep them away from work as much as possible. … I went home and thought about whether it was bad thoughts or good thoughts, and the next day I came to the track and really focused on training.

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