When the Blackhawks hit the ice for the first time this preseason in Saskatoon, there will be twice the Toews of the average Hawks affair, as Jonathan and younger brother David will both be in the lineup for Chicago.
Jonathan, who certainly casts a big shadow for his little brother as far as Blackhawks fans are concerned, says that it will be the first time since he and David were 6 and 4 years old, respectively, that the two have shared a team.
“I had a year of experience on him,” the Blackhawks’ captain recalled. “I think that was the first year he played hockey; he was 4 and I started when I was 5 the year before. We’d set him up in front of the net, and he didn’t have to move too much, and he ended up scoring a lot of goals that year. It was a good start to his career, I guess.”
"It was my first year of playing and I wasn't that great of a skater or anything, so he'd try to skate around and pass me the puck," David added. "He would tell me to go to the net and then try to pass me the puck to get me an empty net. It was a lot of fun. We've always talked about having the opportunity to one day play together again, so it's going to be a lot of fun (tonight). It's just a great opportunity for me."
Since being acquired from the New York Islanders earlier this month, the elder Toews says that he has been helping his brother, preparing him for the camp that lays ahead.
“Sometimes he can get a little overexcited—it happens to everybody—and tries to do a little bit too much,” Jonathan explains. “I’ve been telling him to just go out there and make plays: Use your teammates, keep your head up and stay out of the dangerous areas. Especially in these games, there are some guys who want to take your head off, so you’ve got to be ready for it.
“He’s got a lot of skill, his skating is getting better and he’s showing his speed out there, so he just has to go play and show what he can do and not worry about making mistakes. When you feel loose like that, good things are going to happen.”
Blackhawks Head Coach Joel Quenneville said that it’s doubtful the brothers will share the same line starting out, but he added, “I imagine over the course of the game we’ll see them on the ice together.”
Backup contenders to split the game: Quenneville also announced Tuesday morning that free agent invitee Ray Emery would start Tuesday’s exhibition game against Edmonton, with Alexander Salak coming in as relief roughly halfway through the game.
“It’ll be nice to see them play against other opponents,” he said. “It was nice watching them in camp, too; both guys did well, and Ray’s the guy we’ll watch a little closer [because he’s not signed]. I think we’ll be really happy with them.”
Coach’s-eye view: Though many of the players aren’t yet in their routine and are still getting back into their normal habits, Quenneville said that there will be some things he and the coaches will be looking out for Tuesday night.
“We’re watching to see how they handle the puck, their hockey sense and how their speed matches up with NHL-caliber speed,” Quenneville said. “You look for a lot of things, but hockey sense is probably the thing that jumps out the most in a game like tonight. You want to make sure that they keep it simple out there and trust their instincts.”