Toews hopes to return for Game 1


Toews hopes to return for Game 1

Jonathan Toews is hoping to return and Dave Bolland and Andrew Brunette will be ready to go when the Chicago Blackhawks play the Phoenix Coyotes in Game 1 of their first-round series on Thursday.

Toews has been practicing with the Blackhawks for quite awhile now and has passed all the necessary protocol. But a big sign he could return for Game 1 came at Monday's practice, when Toews was centering the top line with Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa -- with Kane on the left side -- and working with the No. 1 power-play unit. Toews was feeling confident about possibly returning Thursday but didn't give a true yes to it. He has missed the last 22 games, including the final two regular-season ones when he went on the trip and had hoped to play.

"We wanted to err on the cautious side by me not playing (at the end of the regular season). I'm feeling more confident that Thursday might be the day but well see when that time comes," said Toews. "Whenever I come back, Ill definitely want to keep it simple and go out and play a gritty game. The key is not trying to do too much."

When he does come back, the Blackhawks will try that group with Kane at left wing. It will be another adjustment for Kane, who has played that spot sparingly in his career.

"Its fine. Ill get used to it sooner or later. Its good we have a few practices to get adjusted," he said. "We just want to play with the puck and work hard. Especially with the skill we have, it seems like it could be a fun line."

Bolland, who missed the Blackhawks final two regular-season games, said he was just healing "bumps and bruises" down the stretch. He was back centering the checking line with Bryan Bickell and Andrew Shaw on Monday. Andrew Brunette, who's coming off a foot injury, was on the fourth line with Jamal Mayers and Brandon Bollig.

PHOTOS: Blackhawks hit the road sporting Cubs attire

PHOTOS: Blackhawks hit the road sporting Cubs attire

The Blackhawks hit the road on Thursday, and they did so in style.

In support of the Cubs participating in the World Series for the first time since 1945, each member of the Blackhawks sported a Cubs jersey and World Series hat as they hopped onto the plane and traveled to New Jersey.

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It may not have been as whacky as Joe Maddon's themed road trips, but it's still a perfect excuse for breaking the dress code just this once.

Check out the photos below:

Together again: Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane reunite on top line vs. Devils

Together again: Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane reunite on top line vs. Devils

When coach Joel Quenneville has put Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane together it’s usually been during the postseason.

It’s rare when it happens in the regular season and when it does, it seems like an in-case-of-emergency move. But in this case, it may be more of a get-the-captain’s-production-going move.

The Blackhawks made a few more line changes on Thursday, including combining Toews and Kane, as they prepared for Friday night’s game at the New Jersey Devils. Marian Hossa moved to right wing on the second line with Artemi Panarin and Artem Anisimov. Marcus Kruger and Nick Schmaltz flip-flopped as third- and fourth-line centers. Tyler Motte and Ryan Hartman were the third-line wings while Dennis Rasmussen and Jordin Tootoo were on the fourth line.

Coach Joel Quenneville said the line changes, including Kane’s move to the first line, were because the Blackhawks continue to look for balance. To a point, that’s true; the Blackhawks still haven’t come close to getting that four-line rotation with which they’ve found so much success. But considering how successful the Toews and Kane combination has been for each, you’d have to think it’s to help bolster Toews’ point totals. Toews has just two assists through the first seven games.

“Right now I think Jonny, his production isn’t where you look at his play – we still always like the way he plays, he’s so useful in so any different ways,” Quenneville said. “I think maybe we get more balance on both lines. We’ve been trying a number of different looks in our top two groups there. over seven games we still need to be better in a lot of ways. hopefully we can find it.”

Still, if you can get your top players producing points, it’s worth a try. And Kane and Toews, regardless of how long they’ve been apart, usually click immediately upon reuniting.

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“Yeah, I guess change can be good in this sense. We can probably produce a little bit more offense and have the puck a little bit more throughout the game,” Kane said. “I’ve played with Jonny a bunch before. Obviously, not as much lately. But I’m looking forward to it. It’ll be a fun way to play hockey. Obviously he’s one of the best players in the game, and probably in my mind, the easiest player to play with. It’ll be fun to get back out there with him and try to create something, try to produce and have some fun with it.”

As for that usual second line of Panarin, Anisimov and Kane, remember: as we’ve seen before, it can be put together again fast.

“They get a lot of shifts and a lot of looks. It’s not like we’re too far away from going back to it at any time. It’s always close and available,” Quenneville said. “Maybe we get more balance and a little more scoring across the board.”


- Defenseman Gustav Forsling (upper body) did not skate on Thursday and will not travel to New Jersey. Quenneville is still hoping Forsling can play on Sunday vs. the Los Angeles Kings.

- Forward Andrew Desjardins (lower body) continues to improve. Quenneville said Desjardins could be skating in the next day or so.

- Corey Crawford will start vs. the Devils.