Jonathan Toews was tired for all the right reasons on Thursday.
The Blackhawks captain went through another strong skate, something hes done for more than a week now, and he can just about see the light at the end of his concussion tunnel.
Toews said hes getting very, very close to taking contact on the ice. And if that goes well and he passes the medical tests necessary with this injury, he could be back in the lineup next week.
Im not sure if its official. If its not today itll be soon enough, Toews said when asked if he had been cleared for contact. Im getting very, very close. Getting to this point and not playing is the toughest thing to do but at the same time its smart. I definitely need a few more days.
Coach Joel Quenneville said that while Toews could get some contact in the next day or so, hes obviously out this weekend. As for when Toews will play, Quenneville said thats simple.
When hes ready to go, he said. It has to come from the player and there are things they have to pass. From both angles, hes doing the right things.
Still, when he does return, Toews knows hes unlikely to just pick up where he left off. Dave Bolland was one of the rare exceptions when he came back from a month-long out with a concussion last April. From Game 4 on against Vancouver, Bolland was stellar.
He definitely made it look easy, Toews said of Bolland. Im going through somewhat the same thing he did, but its not going to be easy at all. But like him, I just want to go back on the ice and fit in wherever I can. Its all about adding to the mix and not doing too much.
As tough as its been for Toews to watch, the Blackhawks success without him a 10-5-2 record has tempered that somewhat.
We have a good group; we dont rely on just one guy, Toews said. Its tough when key players are missing. You realize how much you need them out there. The 15 games or so Ive missed, guys realize they want to keep winning, hang in there and play playoff hockey. Its about doing all those little things right and its good to see that. It makes you want to come back even more.