It was during the morning skate last month in Winnipeg that Erik Gustafsson first started to feel sick.
At first he thought he could fight through it, but in the evening, a little before the game, the chills became more pronounced. The headache that had been growing started to feel as if it were pounding against his skull.
That's when Gustafsson shut it down for the night and headed back to the hotel. He ended up missing not only that game against the Jets but the following night's game against the Penguins back in Chicago.
"I had to stay over in Winnipeg," Gustafsson said. "I couldn't fly home with the guys. I was that bad. I couldn't even call down to the lobby and ask for Advil. I couldn't even move. So it was bad."
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Getting sick in the middle of a long winter is tough for anybody who needs to be at work. But for an NHL player with 5-6 practices and 3-4 games per week, just thinking about getting back on the ice can be nauseating.
The Hawks have had their share of players miss games because of illness this season. Patrick Kane missed one in early November; Gustafsson and Henri Jokiharju each have missed a pair. Just this week, Brent Seabrook sat out Wednesday's game against the Predators.
Duncan Keith missed Friday's practice at MB Ice Arena, and it's not clear whether he'll be able to play against the Golden Knights on Saturday at the United Center. If he is ready, he likely won't be 100 percent.
"That's the rough one," Gustafsson said. "First (time) putting the skates on and (going) back on the ice is tough. It feels like the first practice of the season when you're coming back. It feels like you've been off for six months.
"But you have to go through it. You know you're going to get tired and play a more simple game. Maybe a shift doesn't have to be that long. Just take it 20-30 seconds long in the first period."
Jokiharju was sick enough to sit out two games at the end of November, but he said some players just can't bring themselves to sit out when they're ill.
"There are players (who) are sick that are still playing," Jokiharju said. "They love the game that much. Honestly, no one's going to play if they're going to die. Certain players play. They don't care if they're sick. It's just the way in hockey."
In some ways, the Hawks are like any other company when it comes to being smart about how to handle sick employees. Then again, most employees don't undress and shower next to each other for seven consecutive months.
"You don't want it to spread through the team," Hawks coach Jeremy Colliton said. "You put yourself in a bad situation that way. But it's natural. Every team deals with it during the year, and we proceed accordingly. But if we can let a guy stay home, first so he can recover quicker but also so he's not around the guys making other guys sick, that's the benefit."