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Blackhawks optimistic Toews will play in Game 6

by Corey Masisak

BOSTON -- Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said Sunday he is "optimistic" captain Jonathan Toews will be able to play in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Boston Bruins on Monday night at TD Garden (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, RDS) despite an upper-body injury.

Toews sat on the bench but did not play during the third period of Game 5 on Saturday night at United Center.

"Johnny is doing much better today," Quenneville said Sunday at TD Garden. "He's progressed, and we're optimistic that he'll be playing tomorrow night."

While Toews was on the receiving end of a huge hit from Boston defenseman Johnny Boychuk in the middle of the second period, he took four more shifts after the big collision in the slot near Boston goaltender Tuukka Rask.

After the game Quenneville said it wasn't certain if one specific play caused the injury, but Boychuk's hit was officially reviewed by the NHL's Department of Player Safery and there will be no supplemental discipline for the play.

"It wasn't a penalty on the play and it was one of those hits in a tight area in front of the net," Quenneville said. "You can be vulnerable in that for a big hit. First point of contact you could talk about, but it's not really ... I'm not going to go there."

Toews cut from right to left and into the slot when Boychuk came from the right and connected. He's delivered several big hits in the series, but the Blackhawks have not taken issue with him.

"I seemed to get matched up against Boychuk quite a bit in this series. He's taken some runs at me," Chicago forward Patrick Sharp said. "I can't really complain how he's hit me. He plays the game hard, he's pretty honest. I think every series we've been a part of things get a little bit more intense as they go along, a lot more trashing talking, physical play on both sides. As far as the hit on Johnny, there's on-ice officials, there's people watching in the stands, and the NHL is reviewing all those hits, so I'll let them make their decision."

If Toews is able to play, it will be a huge boost for the Blackhawks, who are one win from claiming the Stanley Cup for the second time in four seasons. The Blackhawks have spent much of the past four seasons looking for a long-term solution to center the second line behind Toews, much like Boston has with David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron, who is questionable for Game 6 because of what coach Claude Julien described as a "body injury."

Quenneville gave veteran Michal Handzus a chance in that spot during the Western Conference Semifinals against the Detroit Red Wings, and he's remained in place, but other options like Dave Bolland and Andrew Shaw seem more suited for their current roles.

"He's our leader," defenseman Johnny Oduya said. "You know, he's one of those guys ... he's [always] full speed. He gives everything he's got every game. That's something that is tough to replace."

Toews missed time at the end of the regular season in 2011-12 with a concussion, but the Blackhawks still qualified for the postseason and he returned to play against the Phoenix Coyotes in the opening round.

The Conn Smythe Trophy winner in 2010, Toews has not produced the same offensively in the 2013 playoffs, but he's up to 12 points in 22 postseason games after scoring his second goal in Game 4 of the Final and adding two assists in Game 5 before the injury.

"[Toews and Bergeron] are great players," Sharp said. "I think any coach in the League, any player in the League would like to have those guys on their team. They take pride in taking faceoffs, playing well away from the puck, making their linemates better -- both [are] big parts of the locker room. I can't speak for what Boston is dealing with, with Bergeron. I know I don't need to say much about Jonathan. I think everyone knows what we think of him in our locker room. Hopefully we can have him back for tomorrow."


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