CHICAGO – Joel Quenneville thought he was coming down with the flu. It turned out his illness was a little more serious, but it’s all over now.
Quenneville was back coaching the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday after missing a week because of gastrointestinal bleeding caused by a small ulcer.
He was on the ice, leading the defending Stanley Cup champions through practice for the first time since being hospitalized for several days, and was in good spirits.
“Certainly, that feels great,” Quenneville said. “I was on IR for a week. We’ll call it an upper body injury, and it’s all good—all good to go. The only pain I was in for the last week was sitting in the hospital watching the games, but it was a great result the last couple of games.”
The 52-year-old Quenneville started feeling discomfort last Tuesday night at his suburban Chicago home, went to the emergency room and was admitted the next day with a problem that was brought on by aspirin. He was released Saturday and is under no restrictions.
“He jumped right back into it and was excited out there, moving pucks,” forward Troy Brouwer said.
Otherwise, Brouwer said it was business as usual. It was nice having Quenneville back, but the Blackhawks are trying to focus on the task at hand.
They won three of four games with assistant coach Mike Haviland filling in but are fighting to make the playoffs after winning it all a year ago, with 68 points heading into Thursday’s game at Nashville.
“That was good, we needed it,” defenceman Brian Campbell said. “Mike just took over Joel’s system and went with it. Maybe if Joel was there we get all four wins. It’s good to have him back.”
Quenneville’s illness shook a team that has been unable to sustain any momentum, thanks in part to an off-season overhaul that was brought on by salary-cap issues. The Blackhawks kept stars like Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane but had to let other key contributors go.
Losing Quenneville, albeit for a week, was another blow.
One of only two men to coach at least 1,000 games and play 800 in the league, he ranks 10th in NHL history with 563 regular-season wins, and is 125-66-25 in three seasons with the Blackhawks.
“It doesn’t matter who’s here, who’s not here, we need to win games,” Brouwer said. “It’s tough when he’s gone. You’ve got extra things to worry about. He was real good about making sure that none of us were worrying about him and just focusing on hockey.”
Having Quenneville, Brouwer said, just “brings a little bit of familiarity to the group—line calls, play calls, stuff like that. Now that he is back, we know what to expect. He expects us to continue playing like we have been.”
Quenneville watched “every second of all the games” while he was gone, and he liked what he saw. He also felt well enough to return sooner, but that was up to the doctors.
“I felt fine to come back the last three, but I had to get my blood work up to a different level,” he said.
Quenneville said the ulcer was simply a side effect of the aspirin that he regularly takes for a condition he would not disclose, and doctors told him it was not stress-related, no matter how trying this season has been.
“The best part about that is it has nothing to do with anything,” he said, smiling. “I take one a day for years.”
Quenneville said he gained a different perspective watching on TV.
“There are some things that you might want to discuss with the coaches and team as well,” he said. “It’s a whole different way of looking at it, but I still like it better from the ice.”
NOTE: RW Fernando Pisani has been cleared to play after missing five games with a head injury he suffered against Dallas on Feb. 11, when he was knocked into the Stars bench by Dallas’ Mark Fistric. “I just got one practice in,” he said. “I got cleared to play, so we’ll just see how it goes.”