Toews hoping to return on Thursday

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Toews hoping to return on Thursday

Jonathan Toews was figuring out the best way to protect himself once he gets back from his concussion.

Maybe Ill let Kaner go do the dirty work once in a while, Toews joked on Tuesday afternoon.

While Toews injury has been no laughing matter, the Blackhawks captain has reason to smile now: hes been cleared for contact, hes responding well to it and his return is imminent.

Toews is hopeful to return on Thursday when the Blackhawks play the Minnesota Wild in St. Paul. Its been a long wait for Toews, who said he cant wait to get out there again. Still, hes trying to temper his enthusiasm; as much as hed like to get into these last two regular-season games, he wants to make sure hes absolutely ready to go.

I hope (Ill play Thursday). But again, even when Im ready to start playing there are going to be some days where I have to progress toward feeling like myself, Toews said. Emotionally and mentally Ill be ready to play hockey more than anything. Im so excited to get back on the ice. When you havent played in a long time like that, whether its playoffs or not, its fun to go back out there and be part of the room again.

The Blackhawks faced a similar situation last season when they hoped to get a concussed Dave Bolland in the lineup before the regular-season ended. That didnt happen, as Bolland didnt return until Game 4 of the teams first-round matchup with Vancouver. Still, that didnt stop Bolland from making an immediate impact.

"You dont like to catch up to the pace of a playoff game, Quenneville said. Hopefully (Toews) can get his feet wet here, but were not sure of that.

Toews said hes been killing time by walking around town and spending time with brother David, who was injured last month and has visited Jonathan in Chicago. And, of course, hes been counting the days until he can return. If he is ready to go the final two games give Toews a chance to get his legs back under him before the playoffs begin next week.

No matter who we get in the first round, its going to be a tough opponent, Toews said. You see the pace of play, especially in that first round. Most teams would say, you compare the first to other rounds, its probably tougher because no matter who you get, teams are ready to play and excited. The pace is so much higher than what youre used to.

While watching has been tough, Toews has been impressed with how the Blackhawks have done without him. They went 10-2-2 in March, clinched their playoff berth over the weekend and have gotten contributions across the board. Toews said the potential for a long playoff run is there.

Not being around the locker room isnt too much fun. But from the outside looking in you can see were gaining that confidence, he said. All year we knew we were a playoff team. That whole season youre just preparing for what kind of team youre going to be in the postseason. We have a real potential to do something special again and thats what we need to set our sights on.

So where will Toews fit in when he does return? Quenneville said the staff has talked about throwing him right back to No. 1 center, and perhaps moving Marian Hossa or Patrick Kane to the left wing. Quenneville would like to make as few changes as possible, considering how well all of the lines are doing right now.

For Toews, it doesnt matter. Wherever he ends up, its better than where hes been the last month and a half.

Like Ive said Im not expecting anything, he said. I just want to be part of the team and contribute where I can, and hopefully make a difference.

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Five Things from Blackhawks-Canucks: Corey Crawford rebounds

Five Things from Blackhawks-Canucks: Corey Crawford rebounds

The Blackhawks’ starts have been all over the map this season but their finishes have usually been strong. That was the case again on Sunday night as the Blackhawks took a lead, lost a lead and regained a lead for good in their 4-2 victory over the Vancouver Canucks.

This one featured a little bit of everything. So let’s just get to the Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ victory over Vancouver.

1. Jonathan Toews breaks through. If the Blackhawks captain’s confidence was a little shaken with his lack of scoring this season, it should’ve gotten a boost with his Sunday outing. Toews’ goal and three assists were as big for him as they were the Blackhawks, who needed every bit of it late against the Canucks. In his last 12 games Toews has three goals and eight assists. He’s getting there. Said coach Joel Quenneville, “it seems like he was around the puck way more and when he does that, usually good things happen.”

2. Great start. This hasn’t been written very often but it was more than evident on Sunday night. If this wasn’t the Blackhawks’ best opening period of the season it was pretty close, as they broke out to a 2-0 lead against the Canucks. The Blackhawks, outside of a 3 ½-minute sequence without a shot on goal, were tenacious and ready to shoot, taking an 18-9 shots-on-goal edge in that first.

3. Corey Crawford rebounds. Quenneville considered Scott Darling for this game, an understandable thought with Darling coming off a 30-stop shutout. But he wanted Crawford to get back to where he was prior to his appendectomy, and Crawford took a step in that direction on Sunday night. In stopping 25 of 27 shots Crawford got his 18th victory of the season and 200th of his career. Quenneville said Crawford “looked like he was in control.”

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4. Michal Kempny’s tough stretch. When Kempny has been good this season he’s been very good. When he’s been bad... The defenseman was in the penalty box when the Canucks scored their first goal and he was beaten by Bo Horvat on the Canucks’ second goal. Kempny didn’t play the final 14 minutes of the game. Quenneville, who liked what Kempny brought on the team’s road trip, said Kempny just has to work through some things. “Coverage with awareness and knowing sometimes it’s man coverage, sometimes it’s playing the puck and clearing the loose stuff,” Quenneville said. “Defenseman is a tough position as you’re growing and learning it, but the more you play the better you play and I still think he’s making progress.”

5. Brian Campbell gets to keep No. 500 this time. Campbell thought he had his 500th point against the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday night but it was taken away. Well he got it back on Sunday night, setting up Richard Panik’s 11th goal of the season in the first period.