Blackhawks concerned after Jonathan Toews ruled out with concussion

Toews was hurt in the third period Wednesday against the Red Wings, but he played through the injury before feeling symptoms and reporting the situation Thursday.

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Jonathan Toews suffered a concussion Wednesday and will be absent from the Blackhawks moving forward.

AP Photo/Nick Wass

The moment it happened, it seemed innocuous.

Red Wings forward Joe Veleno knocked into Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews with 8:45 left in the third period Wednesday. Toews collided into the boards, which caused his head to briefly spring back with whiplash.

But Toews got right back up, no penalty was called — rightly so, as it appeared legal — and the incident wasn’t even recorded in the NHL’s official play-by-play log as a hit for Veleno.

On Thursday, however, it was clear Toews suffered another concussion on the play. And on Friday, he was put in the concussion protocol by the Hawks with no specific timetable to return.

“He’s a huge part of our team,” interim coach Derek King said. “He’s our leader. We’re going to miss him. But we’re making sure we do the right thing by this. There’s no timeframe. It’s [about] when he’s feeling right. You can’t mess around with this stuff. We’ll just go day by day every day, see how he’s feeling. Then when he’s ready, he’ll come back and join us.”

The news is concerning given Toews’ history of head injuries earlier in his career, including one in spring 2012 that kept him out nearly two months.

The Hawks have seen firsthand, particularly with Corey Crawford and Andrew Shaw, how head injuries can derail a career. Shaw said this month that he’s still not feeling 100% healthy from his career-ending concussion last February.

And although Toews hadn’t suffered any documented concussions during his most recent seasons, his other health issues — including the chronic inflammatory response syndrome that cost him all of last season — have left him in a vulnerable spot.

“Hopefully it’s his last one because you don’t want to see another one,” King said. “[Out of] any injury you get as a player, this is the one you’ve got to really look after. . . . How major is it? I’m not sure. But we’re just going to take the steps and be precautionary.”

Toews took three more shifts, totaling 2:28, after Veleno’s hit because NHL concussion-spotters didn’t radio the bench and Toews didn’t immediately feel anything. Not until Thursday, after the Hawks returned to Chicago from Detroit, did the issue arise.

“He probably wasn’t thinking that [it was a concussion] at the time, and then it hit him later on the next day that he was off a little bit,” King said. “He did the right thing by calling it in.”

Beyond worrying about Toews’ health, the Hawks will be challenged to compensate for his absence on the ice and in the locker room.

He averaged 17:52 of ice time through his first 43 games, down slightly from his 19:47 career average but still fourth-most among Hawks forwards. His production, which at four goals and 15 assists had been an ongoing source of frustration, still ranked fourth among Hawks forwards.

Without him, Dylan Strome, Kirby Dach, Sam Lafferty and Ryan Carpenter operated as the team’s four centers Friday against the Avalanche, with the former two helping to fill the hole on the power play and the latter two on the penalty kill. Toews’ average ice time included 3:25 of power-play time and 1:30 of penalty-killing time.

“[We’ll miss] his leadership,” defenseman Seth Jones said. “He’s always giving us something to be better at, after periods and throughout a game and even on the bench during timeouts. . . . We’re going to lose a big part of that. So we’ll [need] to have guys definitely fill in and have a next-man-up mentality until he gets back.”

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