Jonathan Toews left Tuesday’s morning skate at Carolina’s PNC Arena early. He sat out the entire third period that night. Nobody doubts that the illness he’s been battling all week is legitimate.
But rules are rules. And because Toews bowed out of this weekend’s All-Star game festivities in Nashville, he’ll also be suspended for the Blackhawks’ first game after the break, next Tuesday in Colorado. The rule is designed to prevent players from skipping the All-Star game for questionable reasons. Washington’s Alex Ovechkin, voted the Metropolitan Division captain by fans, also will be suspended for a game after pulling out of the All-Star game with a lower-body injury.
“[Toews] was pulled from Tuesday night’s third period because of an illness and remains symptomatic today,” Hawks team physician Michael Terry said in a release. “At this time, rest over the break is most important for him to properly recover and be fully healthy heading into the rest of the regular season.”
Following the 5-0 loss at Carolina, Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said Toews was “pretty run down.”
Nashville’s James Neal will replace Toews, giving the hometown Predators four of the 11 Central Division All-Stars, and leaving Patrick Kane as the Hawks’ lone representative. After playing 14 games in 24 days leading up to the break, the All-Star game can be viewed as more of a burden than an honor.
“Looking forward to next year, when you have that little bye week, or whatever you call it,” Kane said of the new five-day break that each team will get next season in January or February, as a tradeoff for signing off on the new 3-on-3 All-Star format. “It’ll be nice to kind of get away for some of us who play a lot of hockey. [But] it’s definitely an honor to be part of the All-Star game, I’m excited to go there and represent the Blackhawks as best I can and enjoy my time there, too. Even though it’s about hockey and you’re trying to represent the game, you can still get away and do some fun things, so I’m looking forward to it.”
Between the All-Star break and the suspension, Toews will get a full eight days off between games, which could prove beneficial in the long run.
“The best thing to do right now is probably get away form the game for a few days, relax and get ready for the late push,” Kane said after the Carolina loss, the Hawks’ third in their last four games following a 12-game win streak. “I’m sure when we come back we should have a sour taste in our mouth, especially after these last few games.”
Washington’s Evgeny Kuznetsov replaces Ovechkin, and the Islanders’ John Tavares will be the Metropolitan Division captain.
NOTE: The Hawks and WGN Radio announced a five-year contract extension that will keep the team on 720-AM through the 2023-24 season. The Hawks have been on WGN since the start of the 2008-09 season.