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Recovering from concussion can be tricky

As the Chicago Blackhawks prepare for a huge matchup against the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday, they know they’ll take the ice, once again, without center Dave Bolland.

The Ducks present a major challenge: a top offensive line which few teams have been able to slow down. Bolland would be perfect for the job, but he won’t get the chance after getting knocked out of a game on March 9 with a hit to the head that he has yet to recover from.

Bolland hasn’t seen the ice for practice or a game since, and the Hawks don’t have a timetable for his return.

Concussions have been a major topic in sports lately and it’s hard to stand in a team’s locker room and not find several players who have experienced one. That includes the Hawks.

“I felt like absolute garbage for 4-5 days,” forward Ryan Johnson said. “When people ask me, ‘what does it feel like?’ I tell them it feels like 24 hours a day, seven days a week, you’re hung over. And it’s the worst hangover you’ve ever had. You feel lethargic, no energy, headaches, and you just want to sleep.”

Johnson took a hit in Dallas earlier this season and missed the next three games, although he skated a couple of shifts before leaving.

“I won’t lie to you, within 25-30 minutes I was very unsure where I was and what I was doing, what day or month it was,” Johnson said. “Everything becomes panicky.”

Defenseman Nick Leddy experienced his first major injury while playing for the University of Minnesota last year. Leddy got hit in the open ice, suffering a concussion and a broken jaw.

“I don’t recall anything from that night besides warm-ups,” he said. “I don’t remember what happened to me or what I was doing. I started to remember leaving the rink and heading to the hospital.”

Leddy agreed with the “hangover” analogy Johnson used but said he started to feel better within days. Even so, he had to see a replay of the hit before he knew what happened and he doesn’t recall talking to anyone afterwards, though he did.

“I said some pretty funny stuff,” Leddy said he was told. “I had Bambi legs and I couldn’t really skate. My trainer tells me I told him ‘I can’t believe I got hurt in my first college game.’ And this was already game 8 or 9 so I got knocked back a few weeks.”

The unknown timetable for a player’s return is one of the stranger aspects of a concussion. Last season, Johnson was taken off on a stretcher after tripping over Nicklas Lidstrom's stick and falling headfirst into the boards while playing for Vancouver.

The next day, his teammates couldn’t believe their eyes when he walked into the dressing room.

“You just never know,” Johnson said. “Every concussion is different. I could have played that very next night. I missed a few days and that was it."

Bolland, who understandably isn't doing interviews, feels bad today but he could be better tomorrow. But his recovery hasn’t happened yet and Johnson says you have to be careful of “mind games.”

“You think you might not be feeling well for some other reason and really, it’s the concussion still,” he said. “So you have to be careful.”

Bolland's teammates are doing their best to be there for him.

“The worst thing you can do to a guy battling with a concussion is to run into him every day and be like, ‘How you feeling, how you feeling,’ ” Johnson said. “I tend not to ask about it and instead just say, ‘Hey, how’s your day going.’ That kind of thing.”

Right now Bolland’s days aren’t going well but that could change as quickly as he got hit. That’s the hope, anyway.