Blackhawks’ Connor Bedard breaks his jaw, pausing the No. 1 pick’s stellar start to career

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CHICAGO (AP) — The Chicago Blackhawks placed Connor Bedard on injured reserve on Saturday with a broken jaw, sidelining the young center in the middle of an impressive rookie season.

Bedard got hurt when he was leveled by New Jersey defenseman Brendan Smith midway through the first period of Friday night’s 4-2 loss to the Devils.

Nick Foligno also went on IR with a fractured left finger, adding another name to Chicago’s long list of injured forwards. In desperate need of reinforcements, the Blackhawks added a pair of forwards by acquiring Rem Pitlick in a trade with Pittsburgh and claiming Zach Sanford off waivers from Arizona.

“We’re not sure how long (Bedard) and Nick will be,” coach Luke Richardson said. “It’s just so fresh today, this morning, to get our people to look at them and make decisions going forward.”

The 18-year-old Bedard has been Chicago’s best player, living up to the hype after he was selected with the No. 1 overall pick in last year’s draft. Heading into Saturday’s action, he was leading all NHL rookies with a team-high 15 goals and 18 assists in 39 games.

“Connor was just really upset last night,” teammate Jason Dickinson said. “That’s pretty much all I talked to him about, was just staying positive and being OK with where he’s at.”

While there was no word on a timeline for Bedard’s return, the injury takes him out of the team’s upcoming game in his hometown of Vancouver on Jan. 22. It also means he likely will miss the Feb. 3 NHL All-Star Game in Toronto — dealing a blow to the league.

“It’s definitely hard to kind of wrap our heads around,” teammate Ryan Donato said. “It’s so fresh still for us, to realize what’s going on. But we hope the best for him and hopefully we can keep him positive and keep the guys positive.”

Bedard was hit after he carried the puck into the Blackhawks’ offensive zone. Smith was not penalized on the play, but there was a series of skirmishes between the teams after Bedard departed.

Foligno, who has served as one of Bedard’s mentors in the veteran’s first season in Chicago, left the game after he fought with Smith in the second.

“I don’t know how many fights he’s been in this year, but of course it’s this one that he goes and gets hurt,” Dickinson said. “He’s tough, so I don’t think it’ll hold him out very long. As soon as he’s strong enough to hold a stick I’m sure he’ll be out there with us.”

The depleted Blackhawks have dropped five in a row and seven of eight overall. They are 6-19-2 in their last 27 games in their second season with Richardson in charge.

Bedard and Foligno join a long list of injured players for last-place Chicago.

Fellow forwards Anthony Beauvillier (left wrist), Tyler Johnson (right foot), Taylor Raddysh (left groin strain), Joey Anderson (left shoulder) and Andreas Athanasiou (groin) are also out. Taylor Hall will miss the rest of the season after he had right knee surgery in November.

Seth Jones, the team’s best defenseman, is on IR with a shoulder injury. He hasn’t played since Dec. 10.

“As soon as we seem to find a little bit of something, someone goes down,” Richardson said. “It’s definitely a challenge.”

The 26-year-old Pitlick has 21 goals and 33 assists in 123 career NHL games with Nashville, Minnesota and Montreal. He was selected by the Predators in the third round of the 2016 draft.

Pitlick spent the first part of this season in the minors. He had eight goals and 16 assists in 32 games with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the AHL.

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AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/nhl

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