Toews eager to get back on the ice, forget the lockout

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Toews eager to get back on the ice, forget the lockout

Jonathan Toews spent four months talking about the lockout, about up-and-down negotiations and about what he was going to do if there was no NHL hockey this season.

So, was it nice for the Blackhawks captain to talk training camp and the upcoming Blackhawks season on Wednesday instead of the L word?

Sure is, said Toews, who along with Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Niklas Hjalmarsson, returned to Johnnys IceHouse West for informal skates.

Its just more of a relief, Toews continued. There are two sides of it. Theres the excitement just around the fact that we havent played hockey in so long, and were so excited to get back in front of our fans. But its also to be together on a daily basis.

Theyll soon be together plenty. League training camps are expected to begin on Sunday, and the Blackhawks will get a tough test out of the gate when they face the Stanley Cup-champion Kings in Los Angeles on Jan. 19.

For Toews, the frustration and anger for how long it took to get the season going again is still somewhat there. He said both sides need to learn from this lockout, to have a mutual understanding, respect and work hard together for the fans and for the good of the game. But after using the lockout to stay sharp physically and recharge mentally and not to play in Europe -- Toews is looking forward.

Some guys feel like they need to keep playing. For me, I felt it was good for my body and mind to rest and get myself in a place that Ill be in control of what Im able to do on and off the ice for the next handful of years, Toews said. I dont feel burnt out by any means. Im excited to play hockey.

Now the real fun begins: a short training camp followed by a 48-game regular season. As Patrick Sharp said on Tuesday, its whoever can adjust the quickest and get off to a good start. Toews said it could resemble the midway point of the 2010-11 season, when the Cup-defending Blackhawks were fighting for their playoff lives from winter to spring.

The next thing you knew we found ourselves in the playoff hunt with six or eight teams, whatever it was. It felt like a playoff game every single night from beginning of February to the end of the regular season, Toews said. I see some similarities there. Its a race to the finish.

Whatever it is, Toews is ready for it, as are the rest of his teammates. Its been a long time coming. But the focus is on whats coming up, not the dreaded L word that already took away too much of this season.

Im back to that place where I love the game and Im excited to show up to the rink every day. Sometimes to get away from it for a little bit was a good thing, Toews said. So for me, that was a huge thing to try and take my physical abilities to the next level. Now its time to translate that into how I play on the ice.

Blackhawks look to keep rolling vs. Coyotes

Blackhawks look to keep rolling vs. Coyotes

The last time the Blackhawks faced the Arizona Coyotes was the first game the current top line of Nick Schmaltz, Jonathan Toews and Richard Panik were thrown together.

Yeah, the combination's worked out well. So has the Blackhawks' game in general, as they've won seven of eight including that Feb. 2 game. Now the Blackhawks will try to keep the momentum rolling with their lines and their game when they host the Coyotes Thursday night at the United Center.

The Blackhawks' current run of success started in the desert and part of that has been finding more consistent lines. Everything else has gradually improved off of that, from goal scoring to puck possession.

"I think it's puck possession, puck control, pace to the game," coach Joel Quenneville said. "I thought we were very inconsistent in that early and we were defending way more than we were accustomed to. You're vulnerable for penalties, you're vulnerable for quality scoring chances against and not generating enough. I think that's the progression in our game now, it seems like all four lines are having the puck and having some zone time and having some rush chances, zone chances and it seems like every line's contributing there, and that's the big difference."

[RELATED: By the bye - Blackhawks keep rolling following break]

The Blackhawks' top line didn't have immediate chemistry but Quenneville kept them together and let them work on it. But as Toews said, it was about the group keeping the all-around game going, points or no points.

"Sometimes you just gotta work until things start clicking," Toews said. "Everyone seems to start paying attention when you start scoring goals, regardless of [the fact you're] doing things right. It's nice that we're scoring but we have to stick with what's making us a successful line at both ends of the rink right now."

Corey Crawford will start vs. the Coyotes. Niklas Hjalmarsson did not skate this morning but is expected to play. Quenneville said Michal Rozsival could draw into the lineup.

Broadcast information

Time: 7:30 p.m.
TV: CSN
Live stream: CSNChicago.com

Blackhawks lines

Nick Schmaltz -Jonathan Toews-Richard Panik
Artemi Panarin-Artem Anisimov-Patrick Kane
Dennis Rasmussen-Marcus Kruger-Marian Hossa
Ryan Hartman-Tanner Kero-Vinnie Hinostroza

Defensive pairs

Duncan Keith-Niklas Hjalmarsson
Michal Rozsival-Brent Seabrook
Brian Campbell-Trevor van Riemsdyk

Goaltender

Corey Crawford

Injuries 

None

Coyotes lines (via Arizona Republic)

Tobias Rieder-Martin Hanzal-Radim Vrbata
Brendan Perlini-Christian Dvorak-Shane Doan
Max Domi -Alex Burmistrov-Ryan White
Jamie McGinn-Jordan Martinook-Josh Jooris

Defensive pairs

Oliver Ekman-Larsson-Luke Schenn
Alex Goligoski-Anthony DeAngelo
Jakob Chychrun-Connor Murphy

Goaltender

Mike Smith

Injuries

Lawson Crouse (lower body), Brad Richardson (tibia)

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