Blackhawks’ Jujhar Khaira ready to put Jacob Trouba’s hit, tumultuous season behind him

Jacob Trouba reached out to Jujhar Khaira after the hit, and Khaira responded to him.

Nine months since the Blackhawks-Rangers game on Dec. 7 last season, that’s still about all Khaira –who has moved on and isn’t the type of player to stir up drama, but who understandably wishes that game never happened –is willing to share publicly.

“I remember it all,” he said. “I’ve seen the clip now, and it paints the picture. It sucked.”

Khaira had his head down to gather a pass from Seth Jones when Trouba delivered the crushing head-impacting collision. It somehow wasn’t penalized, but it left Khaira unconscious on the United Center ice for six minutes and required him to be hospitalized overnight.

Despite a history of concussions dating back to his Oilers tenure, Khaira was rather amazingly able to return to action Jan. 1. But in the meantime, a similar incident happened in the Hawks-Stars game Dec. 18, when Brett Connolly knocked out Tanner Kero. A few months later, it happened again when Parker Kelly boarded Connor Murphy in the Hawks-Senators game March 12.

In a Hawks season full of bad news in many categories, three major head injuries occurring within a three-month span was one of the worst patterns of all.

“You’ve seen other guys go through it,” Khaira said. “It’s the ugly part of hockey. But there’s always the potential for that to happen, and that was the case for me. It’s the game we all signed up for, and it’s the game we want to play.”

And as far as whether he considers Trouba’s hit dirty?

“We all have our opinions,” he said. “That’s all I’m going to say.”

Khaira’s injury last December resulted in an overnight stay at Northwestern Hospital.

Kamil Krzaczynski/AP

Khaira’s rough luck last season didn’t end with the Trouba hit, either. A back injury flared up in his January return. After grinding through it for nine games, he was eventually shut down for surgery, which not only ruled him out for the season but also cut into his summer training. He finished the year with just three points (all goals) in 27 games.

Knowing how he feels now — fully healthy — he’s grateful in retrospect that he elected to undergo surgery, but it felt at the time like a fittingly disappointing bookend to a largely lost season.

“It was a tough road,” he said. “We’re so used to being in shape and well-conditioned and all that. You have to take a month off to let it heal up before you can start slowly getting into exercises, but mentally you think you should be able to do [more].

“I had a full offseason. It was just [about overcoming] roadblocks. I would get to a certain point, and then I’d have to battle through it for a week. Then I’d take another step forward, then get through that, then another step forward. It was never anything where I took a couple steps back. It was always steps forward, but some maybe took a little bit longer than others. It was what I expected and what I knew I had to go through.”

With a new coaching staff and a rejuvenated body, there’s “nothing better” than this clean slate of a season for Khaira, who just turned 28 in August.

During the first week of camp (before Sunday’s off-ice day) Khaira most often skated on a line with Philipp Kurashev and MacKenzie Entwistle.

“He’s in great shape and he’s a great skater,” new coach Luke Richardson said. “[He’s a] very conscious defensive player, but he has some skill with the puck. Those are really intangible utility players you can use in different places.”

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