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Toews travels with Hawks, but won't play Thursday

by Brian Hedger / Chicago Blackhawks

CHICAGO -- He's real close to returning to action, but injured Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews isn't quite there yet.

Instead, Toews will settle for making his first trip since missing 20 straight games because of an upper body injury when he travels with the Blackhawks on Wednesday to Minneapolis for a Thursday night game against the Minnesota Wild. Toews will then head to Detroit with his teammates and could possibility return on Saturday in the last game of the regular season at Joe Louis Arena against the Red Wings.

However, Toews has to be symptom-free, which isn't the case right now.

"There's still signs lingering, when that's completely gone I'll be comfortable playing," said Toews, who told the Chicago Tribune's Chris Kuc that he passed the required medical tests to return. "It's one of those things where it's very easy to come back if one little thing goes wrong, so I'm just waiting for [the symptoms to completely subside]."

The waiting is frustrating for the guy with the nickname "Captain Serious," but it's also not something he will let jeopardize his health -- either in the short-term or long-term.

"This isn't a tragedy," Toews said. "It's not life and death. I can still go to sleep at night and I'm not completely depressed. The guys are playing well. It's disappointing and it's not fun, but it's reality and you have to deal with it."

The Blackhawks are in the same boat. They've managed to find a way to win games in the 20 that he's missed so far and realize it isn't the type of injury that should be rushed in the recovery process.

"It's all part of the process," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. "That's where we're at with it."

Quenneville was vague when asked if he's still hoping Toews gets into that last game of the regular season in Detroit on Saturday to re-acclimate himself to game speed and intensity before the Stanley Cup Playoffs begin.

"That would be nice, but we'll see," Quenneville said.

Meanwhile, Toews is excited just to get on a plane with his teammates again -- something he hasn't done since leaving the lineup after playing Feb. 21 against St. Louis.

"That's step one. I'll take that," he said of making the trip. "It's better than staying home and sitting around by myself. It's not fun to be home watching these [games] on TV in my living room and the guys [are] on the road and they're together all the time. You miss out on a lot, and now I feel like I'm a little bit closer to being in the picture again. It's better than nothing, and hopefully it means I'll be back soon."

Still, Toews said it would be wise for fans and teammates to take the same approach that he's taken and temper expectations until he's actually back to normal.

"I have been out for a while," Toews said. "It's the only way to get through this. It's great to have optimism to hope that I'm going to play [soon], but the way it's been the last two to three weeks, you always think the next time is going to be the time you make a comeback and [when] you don't it's pretty disappointing. You've just got to be ready for whatever, I guess."

Quenneville should be used to that approach by now. His team will also be without third-line center Dave Bolland on Thursday night with a recent upper-body injury and the Hawks might also be without veteran forward Andrew Brunette (lower-body injury) against the Wild for the second straight game.

Both will make the trip, but Brunette is the only one who could possibly play on Thursday night in Minnesota. Bolland and Toews, meanwhile, have not been ruled out for Saturday's game in Detroit.

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