Ryan Ellis practiced again on Thursday and could return to the Predators’ lineup Friday night in Chicago.
The Predators defenseman has missed the last 20 games after suffering a concussion following an elbow to the head from Stars forward Corey Perry during the Winter Classic. Perry was suspended five games by the Department of Player Safety.
Ellis spoke after Thursday’s practice, where he was paired with Roman Josi, and said he had no hard feelings towards Perry.
“To be honest, it’s a hockey play. I’m not bitter at him,” Ellis said. “Obviously, I’d like to catch him with a nice open-ice hit as I would anyone on any other team. But it’s a hockey player, I get where he was at, I get what he was thinking. It looks bad. … But I’m not bitter. It sucks not playing.”
Perry spoke after the Winter Classic and explained that the hit was “unfortunate” and “unintentional.”
“It was an awkward play,” Perry said on New Year’s Day. “I went to the bench to get a stick and came back. I reached out to try to deflect the puck or whatever. It was unfortunate. I’ve played with Ryan before. I know him personally. It’s very unintentional. I didn’t mean to hurt him. I hope he’s OK. This is a big event. I’m sure he had family in here. I had some family here. It’s unfortunate. I just hope he’s OK.”
Whether Ellis plays against the Blackhawks will depend on how his body responds to his practice participation. Head coach John Hynes said they’ll have a better idea after Friday’s morning skate.
“We wanted to push him today in practice, put him on a D-pair and play in the situations he could possibly play in,” Hynes said.
The Predators are three points out of a wild card spot and have won three of their last four. They have plenty of ground to make up in the Western Conference playoff picture and getting one of their top defenseman back helps .
“It was a long road and I haven’t been down one like that, so it’s nice to be feeling like myself,” Ellis said. “It’s not like a typical injury, it’s one day good and one day bad, you never know what the next one brings. It’s been a process and I’m glad to be feeling a bit better.”
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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.