Toews skates; Keith respects the NHL's decision

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Toews skates; Keith respects the NHL's decision

Jonathan Toews skated for the fifth consecutive day -- and practiced with teammates for the first time in nearly two weeks -- as the Blackhawks prepared to face the Nashville Predators at the United Center Sunday night.

Toews said he's feeling better with each passing day, and right now feels the way he did right before he suffered a setback about two weeks ago. And while he was looking at his potential return date on that first go-around, he said he's not doing that again this time. Still, he sees himself playing again before season's end.

"I was confident a week in that it wouldnt take much longer. It sucks that its taken this long but I feel this is it," said Toews. "Mentally Im positive and telling myself that well get through this. I'm not going to let the setbacks that have happened weigh me down."

Meanwhile, defenseman Duncan Keith talked about the five-game suspension the NHL handed him for his elbow to Daniel Sedin's head on Wednesday. Keith said he respects the league's decision -- he didn't want to get into details about the call, or Sedin's hit on him prior to his hit -- and will try to use the break as best he can.

"I want to keep sharp, want to keep in game shape. Ill do that," he said. "(I'll try to) get as much rest, eat properly, get lots of sleep and be working out with Paul (Goodman) and hopefully I can try to use it as my advantage, somehow."

Regarding Keith's hit, Toews said, "Youve seen the history between these two teams, how things are going both ways in that game. Again, you dont go into a situation like that intentionally trying to hurt the guy, knowing concussions and head injuries have become a big problem. But the reality is, those things happen when youre playing with an edge. Guys arent going to say theyre trying to hurt someone but when youre trying to hit someone really hard, especially against a team you have a history with like Vancouver, youre not going to let up. Unfortunately Duncs may have gone a little overboard there. It's a tough suspension, we all feel for him, but it is what it is and it happens."

Steve Montador (concussion) said he's been cleared for contact but there's still no set time for his return. Marcus Kruger (upper body) practiced with the Blackhawks on Saturday but is out for tomorrow night's game.

Corey Crawford will start against the Predators.

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Five Things from Blackhawks-Rangers: Duels and denied goals

Five Things from Blackhawks-Rangers: Duels and denied goals

There are a lot of similarities between the Blackhawks and the New York Rangers. Both have a nice record to start this season and both are getting through recent injuries as best they can.

And thanks to their goaltending, they had a pretty fun little battle on Friday night.

Antti Raanta edged Scott Darling as the Rangers took a 1-0 overtime victory over the Blackhawks on Friday. It was surprising that Raanta got the start, only because he had started for the Rangers on Thursday against Winnipeg. But he’s been hot, he’s good at the United Center in his career and obviously it was the right decision.

The Blackhawks are back at it on Sunday against another team going through its injury issues, the Dallas Stars. Before then, however, let’s look at the Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ overtime loss to the Rangers.

1. A familiar goalie duel. Two seasons ago Scott Darling and Antti Raanta were fighting for the Blackhawks’ backup goaltending spot. So it seemed fitting that they face each other on Friday night. They didn’t disappoint. Each goaltender had his share of stellar stops, many coming in the second period as each team looked for an edge. Raanta got the victory, running his record at the United Center to 15-0-3. The two had a quick, good-natured talk at the end of the game. “It was all friendly,” Darling said. “We were just saying, ‘good job’ and we’re happy for one another.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

2. Kane alright. Patrick Kane got the concussion protocol call in the second period a few moments after he was hit into the glass by Nick Holden. After Kane was called for high-sticking he was sent to the locker room, returning as the Blackhawks went on their first power play of the night at 17:28 of the second period.

3. The Rangers’ successful challenge. Just when you thought the Blackhawks were taking a 1-0 lead the third period (Marian Hossa), the Rangers challenged for offside. They won, nullifying Hossa’s attempt at his 15th goal of the season. Hossa was disappointed, and is frustrated at how some of the rule changes are taking away goals when the league is trying to increase scoring. Coach Joel Quenneville, when asked if he’d like the rule changed if he could, laughed. “Right now? Sure.”

4. A better all-around game. We may be harping on the Blackhawks’ injury situation but when you’re missing three key guys (Jonathan Toews, Brent Seabrook and Corey Crawford) it’s going to alter your game. But the Blackhawks played a strong all-around game against the Rangers and had some good scoring chances. All things considered, and against a very good Rangers team, Quenneville liked what he saw. “We know they’re a dangerous team off the rush, a lot of guys can make plays, a ton of speed. You have to respect that in ways and they check well in their own end,” Quenneville said. “I thought we did some good things. I think on the rush game we did a good job of taking away that danger.”

5. When will the Blackhawks return to health? Yeah, we’re looking ahead a little bit on this one, and we may have a clearer picture by Saturday morning. If Toews and Seabrook are skating and come out of the session well, there’s a chance they could play on Sunday. The Blackhawks have done alright despite the injuries. But you have to wonder when they start feeling a bit depleted.