Jake McCabe might not miss much of the Blackhawks’ regular season after all.
The 28-year-old defenseman clarified Friday — after participating in a non-contact jersey in both of the first two practices of training camp — that he underwent cervical spine surgery in early August, not mid-September as previously thought.
That means he’s expected to return to action four to six weeks — rather than 10 to 12 weeks — from now. He likely won’t play opening night Oct. 12, but he could return within a few games afterward.
“I haven’t had contact yet, so I don’t want to get ahead of myself,” McCabe said. “That’s going to be the real test with this injury. My legs feel good, but I still have to wait a couple of weeks for full battle contact. I’m just trying to stay patient with that. As good as I do feel, I’m trying not to get ahead of myself and take a step backward.”
On-and-off back pain has plagued McCabe for the past four or five years, he admitted, dating back well into his previous NHL tenure with the Sabres.
After playing 75 games for the Hawks last season, he started this summer still trying to fix or at least tolerate the issue through more conservative treatment approaches. But “that wasn’t doing the trick,” and surgery eventually became the clear next choice.
The operation removed a fragment of the herniated disc to remove pressure from a nearby nerve. McCabe was skating again about two weeks after surgery (four weeks ago now). Two more weeks from now, he anticipates he’ll be cleared to resume contact, although he has “already started pushing around a little bit.”
“Obviously I’d like to be fully healthy, but it wasn’t like I was not able to work out at all [this summer],” he said. “I tested well in off-ice workouts. I feel really good on the ice. I’m in shape.”