Jonathan Toews settling into familiar rhythms on possible last Blackhawks road trip

Toews holds plenty of memories from Calgary and Vancouver from earlier in his career, making this a fitting potential final trip. And the Hawks captain is simply finding it “nice to be back in the swing [of things] with the guys.”

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Jonathan Toews looks to pass the puck.

Jonathan Toews is enjoying settling back into a normal pattern on this Blackhawks road trip.

AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast

CALGARY, Alberta — There’s a well-established pattern to any NHL road trip.

Players wake up in a boilerplate hotel, eat breakfast, bus to a boilerplate arena for morning skate, grab lunch, bus back to take a nap, return for the game, head straight to the airport afterward and land in another city in the early-morning hours to repeat the routine.

Jonathan Toews missed that pattern, among many things, during the last two months.

And as he began — on Tuesday in Calgary — what is potentially his last multigame road trip with the Blackhawks, he appreciated that pattern’s return. It made him almost forget about the fact it might be his last.

“It’s nice to be in the rhythm . . . and not be constantly on your own page and focusing on how you’re feeling and your recovery every single day,” Toews said. “You tend to get really in your own head and focus on tiny little details that will take care of themselves with time. If you’re doing the right things, you don’t have to overthink it too much.

“It’s nice to be back in the swing [of things] with the guys, and be on the road with them and just be playing hockey with them. It takes your mind off things. You just go about your business.”

After all, Toews is accustomed to visiting Western Canada during the fall, as the days shorten and the ground freezes. He associates Calgary not only with the standard short-term rhythm of any road trip but also with settling into the long-term rhythm of a season.

That association stems from the fact the Hawks played a road game against the Flames in either November or December in each of his first 13 full seasons. For a long time, that was because of the annual “Circus Trip” around Thanksgiving; the last few years, it was mere coincidence. This season marked the first time that pattern was broken.

“The last week of November, we’re up in Canada and it’s already getting cold and snowing,” he said. “It was your introduction to, ‘OK, the hockey season has officially started now.’ ”

Toews also associates Calgary with the memories of his first playoff series, a six-game triumph over the Flames in the 2009 first round.

And he certainly associates the next stop on this three-game trip, Vancouver, with even more playoff memories — as well as “some hatred that lasted for years” toward the Canucks. Reminiscing about that brought a grin to his face.

So even though the Hawks aren’t visiting Toews’ hometown of Winnipeg on this swing (which will conclude Saturday in Seattle), it’s practically as fitting a trip as any to be possibly his last. And against all reasonable odds from a month ago, he appears healthy enough to play uninhibited on it.

He said his recovery process after his first game back Saturday was “definitely a little bit better” than it had been after games in January, when his immune-system issues and long COVID symptoms were flaring up.

His play isn’t perfect, and it won’t become perfect over these final two weeks, which he knew would be the case all along. But he finally feels more like himself again, and nothing accentuates that improvement better than hockey’s on- and off-ice rhythms.

“There’s definitely moments when . . . it’s hard to remember what it feels like to really enjoy the game, playing with that passion,” Toews said. “But you just stay with it.

“The last few months where I’ve been away from the team, it always gives you perspective to . . . notice what you take for granted and the things that you miss when you’re not playing. [My] passion is definitely still there, and it always will be there.”

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