CHICAGO -- Steve Montador has been out of the lineup for the Chicago Blackhawks for the past 15 games with an undisclosed upper body injury and will also miss Sunday night's home game against the Los Angeles Kings.
Montador, however, did participate in Chicago's optional morning skate -- which was his first time working out with teammates on the ice since incurring the injury, which is believed to be concussion-related.
Montador skated on his own a week ago, when the Hawks were on a three-game road trip, but didn't get on the ice this past week with his team at home until Sunday morning.
"I've never been out for this long during the regular season," said Montador, who's playing his 10th NHL season. "It's hard to just sit back and watch, I guess. When you feel like you're getting ready and then you're getting on the ice and have to take some time off, there's some psychological and emotional turbulence that goes with it. Certainly it was a challenge, but the overall trend has been pretty solid, which is exciting and encouraging for me."
How difficult has it been for him to not being around his teammates much and not play at all?
"The situation for me is kind of like any other[injury], although for me it's unique because it's the longest I've ever had throughout the middle of a season," Montador said. "That was just the biggest challenge for me, as far as seeing the guys play and expecting to be out there myself and practicing and being around the guys. Being around the guys was actually harder this time, because you feel like you want to join in and you're kind of left out obviously, because you're injured."
Montador, who said he's dealt with this kind of injury before in his career, was evasive about the nature of the ailment and gave no indication whether the speculation about it being concussion-related was accurate.
However, teammates Jonathan Toews and Niklas Hjalmarsson have also missed time recently with what's believed to be concussion-related injuries and Toews -- who's still out -- said it's been helpful to have a couple of teammates with similar injuries recovering at the same time. Either way, Montador said he's hoping to return before the end of the season -- which only has 13 games left in the regular season.
"That's my plan," he said on Sunday. "We've only got about a month or so left. I can't put an exact timetable on it, but I don't think I'm that far away."
Things might have changed on the Hawks blue line since Montador left the lineup, however. Rookie defenseman Dylan Olsen has stepped in and played very well, which will mean Hawks coach Joel Quenneville will have to make some decisions about who plays once Montador is ready to go again.
"We like tough decisions," Quenneville said. "We've had a couple times this year where we were short on the back end, but it [would give] us another option. He's got some versatility in his game, as well. We will be excited to have him back."