Fresh off a come-from-behind, overtime win on Sunday evening, Matthew Highmore was out to dinner in San Antonio, Texas with a few of his Rockford IceHogs teammates when he got the call he's waited nearly 20 months to hear again.
He jumped on a plane from central Texas early on Monday morning, landed in Chicago at 9:15 a.m. and was on the ice with the Blackhawks just two hours later.
"It's awesome. Just really happy to be here," he said. "I've been working (for this) for awhile, just really happy to be here and help out any way I can."
Video: Highmore back after injured 2018-19
Towards the end of his rookie season in 2017-18, Highmore appeared poised to break onto the scene when camp opened later that Fall. He appeared in his first 13 games for the Blackhawks in March 2018, finding the net twice before re-joining the IceHogs ahead of a Calder Cup playoff run. He led the team with nine points in 13 games before being ousted in the Conference Finals by the Texas Stars, whose parent club visits the United Center on Tuesday night.
But Highmore's sophomore season went far from according to plan.
He led Rockford, still coached by Jeremy Colliton at the time, with seven points (3G, 4A) in the first eight games out of the gate in 2018-19 before requiring shoulder surgery that sidelined him for over five months. He would recover just in time to finish the year, getting his feet wet with four games in April before the season's end.
"It was tough. I thought that, not only myself, but our team in Rockford got off to a really good start, so I wanted to be part of that," Highmore said. "It's tough, you never want to go through injuries but it is part of the game and you just have to roll with the punches and you've got to go with it."
"I thought he was playing really well last year," Colliton said Monday. "He had an excellent rookie season and an excellent start, so really tough timing for him because I think he was totally on the right path to at least challenge for a full-time spot."
Video: Highmore on call-up
It remains to be seen if he'll get the opportunity to play during this stint in Chicago, but it's a sign he's back on the right path following last season's detour. He has 10 points in 17 games to start the year, including an assist on the overtime winner on Sunday in San Antonio.
"Game's coming around. I feel way better on the ice, healthy which is number one," he said. "I'm just out there playing and playing hard and not having to worry about anything, so that's positive for me … I'm just here to work hard right now and we'll see what happens and go from there."
"It always takes some time for that rehab to get back up to speed, but the couple games I've watched, he's looked really good and good to get him here and just get a look at him and he can get comfortable," Colliton said. "Whether he gets in a game or not, I don't know, but he's played well down there and their team's playing good right now, so that's also good for those players to understand they're not far away."