GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Jonathan Toews will not only be on the the ice for the first time since Feb. 19 when he faces the Phoenix Coyotes tonight, but he'll skate between Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa for the first time in years.
While Toews was recovering from his concussion, Kane moved to the center spot from his natural right wing and played alongside Hossa. Now, with the Blackhawks playing well and the other lines working well, coach Joel Quenneville will play the three on a potent top line in Game 1 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals at Jobing.com Arena.
It was a foregone conclusion that Toews would play -- Quenneville admitted he could have played last weekend had a playoff spot been on the line -- but putting the Big Three together is a bit of a surprise, even for the players,
"I'm pretty sure we did it a couple of time when Hoss first came to Chicago (early in the 2009-10 Stanley Cup championship season)," Toews said. "We worked together well and we can't really figure out why we haven't been together since then.
"I think the three of us know we've just got to go out there and play hard, it doesn't matter who has the puck. Especially for myself, I'll simplifiy things and work as hard as I can and get them the puck and let them do their thing. We're excited to be on a line, and we know there is a lot of pressure on us to be out there and create some offense. But we have to be smart on both sides of the puck."
Toews said he will have to temper his excitement early, but this day has been a long time coming.
"I'm very excited," he said. "It's been touch and go for over two months. Whenever you feel like you're getting to 100 percent, you have a setback. These last few weeks have been really good, not only to get over this but to feel ready enough to play a game. I'm very happy about that, not only myself but the rest of the guys are excited about it.
"It's frustrating when you wake up every day expecting something different and it's always the same feelings that keep coming back. After awhile you kind of lose courage a little bit and get frustrated. But you have to hang in there and stay positive knowing that there are worse things that can happen."
Toews said he had a few conversations and shared notes with Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby -- and his insight was helpful.
"Just a couple of times, going both ways," Toews said. "I think it was nice of him to check on things. Having the same agent (Pat Brisson), we've gotten to know each other a bit over the years and we've gone through some of the same frustrations with this. I wasn't at the level where I was out for over a year, but now I have a feeling for what he went through."
Towes realizes the Coyotes will test him in his first game back. Does he expect to be a target?
"I don't see why not," he said. "You have to be ready for that. There isn't much you can do about it but go out and expect they are going to try to run you. There are so many different ways you can get hurt in this game. If you go out there and think about it so much and are afraid to get hurt, I think your chances are much higher that something bad is going to happen."