Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said he feels ‘’really good’’ after missing the final six games of the regular season and said he was recharged and ready to go for the playoff opener Thursday against the Blues in St. Louis.
‘’Absolutely,’’ Toews said Monday after he, Patrick Kane and three teammates participated in an optional skate at Johnny’s West. ‘’I don’t think you ever want to miss games, but if you do … you can try to rest up and be as mentally ready for the playoffs as you can.’’
Toews suffered an upper-body injury when he was checked by the Penguins’ Brooks Orpik in a 4-1 loss March 30 in Pittsburgh. The Blackhawks decided to sit him the rest of the regular season and make sure he was fit for the playoffs.
‘’I don’t feel like I lost anything,’’ Toews said. ‘’It was only a short time to be away from playing the games. For anyone who’s been playing right until the end of the season, it’s going to be an adjustment with the speed of the playoffs, so everyone’s going to have to step it up a little bit.’’
Toews generally is one of the last players to worry about making that adjustment. In 2012 he missed the final 22 games of the regular season with a concussion, then scored a goal 4:04 into the Hawks’ playoff opener against the Phoenix Coyotes. Toews was a plus-4 in the first two games of that series. If anything, it’ll be up to Toews’ teammates to follow his lead.
‘’I think we’ll all be excited, especially myself, in Game 1 [against the Blues],’’ said Toews, who scored 28 goals and 68 points and was a plus-26 in 76 games this season. ‘’ said. ‘’Hopefully that energy and that excitement can carry me through and get me enough to play my best.’’
Toews said he was not concerned that the injury — which had him gingerly clutching his arm as he left the ice — would be worse than it turned out to be.
He also said the hit by Orpik was ‘’clean’’ and was happy with the team’s response to the play — just playing hockey instead of getting retribution for the borderline but legal hit.
‘’That’s exactly it,’’ Toews said. ‘’Our team was having a tough week and we were trying to win the game. That was the most important thing. So to get that stupidity and try to get into that sort of thing wasn’t going to help us at all.
‘’Boys did the right thing; I don’t expect anything after something like that. It was a clean hit, we’ve moved on and we’ve had a good week and a bit since then. Put it behind us.’’
The return of Kane arguably bears closer scrutiny. Kane missed the final 12 games of the regular season after suffering a sprained knee in a 4-0 victory over the Blues on March 19. The nature of the injury and the dynamic nature of Kane’s game make his return to top form less certain.
Kane said he felt ‘’pretty good’’ after Monday’s workout. But he acknowledged ‘’we’ll know a litlte bit more’’ after practicing with the team Tuesday and Wednesday. Even then, until Game 1, the status of Kane’s recovery will be up in the air.
‘’I’ve had some time to rest my injury … the right amount of time. And with anything you want to make sure you’re feeling good coming back,’’ said Kane, who had 29 goals and 69 points and was a plus-7 in 69 games this season. ‘’I think that’s where I’m at right now. It’ll be nice to get a couple of skates with the team [Tuesday] and Wednesday and the pre-game skate Thursday and get ready to go.’’
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said he was excited to have Kane and Toews back on the ice. ‘’We know the importance of what they bring to our team,’’ he said. And he said he was not concerned about their recovery from injury.
‘’We know they’re ready,’’ Quenneville said. ‘’They haven’t played games in a while, but the level they’re accustomed to playing at, they should be fine.’’