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Blackhawks Notebook: Hjalmarsson, Toews improving

by Brad Boron / Chicago Blackhawks

While not entirely positive, the injury report from Blackhawks practice Thursday was encouraging, as both defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson and captain Jonathan Toews inch closer toward returning to the lineup.

Hjalmarsson participated in the team practice Thursday morning and said he is hopeful that he will play in Friday’s game against the Eastern Conference-leading New York Rangers.

“It's really painful to just be able to practice and not to play," the 24-year-old blueliner told the media post-practice. "This is the first time in the last couple years I've been out for a long period of time. Hopefully I'll be out there tomorrow."

Meanwhile, Toews skated on his own before practice, his first on-ice workout since an upper-body injury sidelined him in late February. Head Coach Joel Quenneville said both he and Toews were optimistic following the practice, but there remains no set timetable for the center's return. The Blackhawks are 4-4-0 during this stretch without their captain.

"He had a good skate today," said Quenneville. "He felt good. It's exciting for us to see him back out there and he’s encouraged as well. It was a really good day."

While Toews and Hjalmarsson are trending in the right direction, it appears that the team will be without Sami Lepisto for a stretch, as Quenneville said the defenseman will be out “indefinitely.” Lepisto left Tuesday’s game against St. Louis with a lower-body injury after falling awkwardly in a collision with the Blues’ David Perron.

News and notes: Netminder Ray Emery will get the nod for the Blackhawks on Friday, his fourth-straight start… Jamal Mayers did not practice with the team Thursday, but Quenneville cited it as a “maintenance day.” He is expected to play Friday against the Rangers.

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