NASHVILLE – Only three games remain in the regular season, but the Chicago Blackhawks should get captain Jonathan Toews back for at least one of them.
Toews, who has not played since Feb. 19 , missed his 19th consecutive game on Saturday, as Chicago defeated Nashville 5-4 to clinch its fourth consecutive berth to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. After the game, coach Joel Quenneville confirmed that Toews has been cleared for contact.
Toews remained home in Chicago, but skated on Saturday, making it nearly two full weeks that he has skated on a daily basis.
"We're hopeful that maybe we can get him in before the end of the season," Quenneville said on Saturday morning of Toews' potential return.
Asked for an update after the game Quenneville said, "He's fine, he's doing good" while confirming Toews had been cleared for contact.
The Blackhawks, with 97 points, still have a chance for home-ice advantage in the Western Conference Quarterfinals, as they are tied in the standings with Detroit (four games remaining) and sit one point behind Nashville (three games remaining). Chicago hosts Minnesota on Sunday, then has four days off before visiting the Wild on Thursday. Their season finale is on Saturday at Detroit.
Despite missing all of that time, Toews, 23, the 2010 Conn Smythe Trophy winner, remains tied for second on the Blackhawks in goals with 29. He has 57 points in 59 games and a plus-17 rating.
On Saturday, the Blackhawks defeated Nashville for the first time since Halloween, 5-4, even without two of their best players out of the lineup, Toews and defenseman Duncan Keith, who served the fourth game of a five-game suspension. It’s possible that Chicago, winners of seven of their last nine games, could end up playing Nashville in the opening round of the playoffs – as they did in 2010 -- and forward Patrick Kane liked what getting those two back could mean in a potential match-up.
"Yeah, we know they're sitting over there healthy, they've been adding guys to their team all year like (defenseman Hal) Gill, (checking center Paul) Gaustad, (scoring wing Alex) Radulov and we're kind of waiting for a couple of our best players to get back," Kane said, "so it's nice to get that win, maybe send them a message that we're going to be better with those couple of players.
"That's the best thing about it. We know we’re going to get better going forward and we've been playing pretty well lately, so it's a good feeling."
Author: John Manasso | NHL.com Correspondent