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Good sign for Toews, who skates prior to practice

by Brian Hedger
CHICAGO -- He'll miss another game when the New York Rangers come to town on Friday, but Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews took a signifcant step on Thursday toward returning to the ice.

Toews, who's been out for eight games with an upper-body injury believed to be concussion-related, skated on his own for the first time on Thursday since his injury was revealed after a Feb. 19 game against the St. Louis Blues.

"He had a good skate today," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "It was very exciting for us to see him back out here. He's encouraged as well, so it was a really good day."

Toews took the ice before the Hawks' practice, working out with strength and conditioning coach Paul Goodman, and felt OK afterward.

"He felt good," Quenneville said. "That's part of it, as well. It was a big first step seeing him out here."

The Hawks aren't ready to put a more definitive timetable on Toews' return other than "day-to-day," but just seeing him back on the ice was encouraging.

"After that, we'll certainly get a [better] idea to when he's closer," Quenneville said. "He's progressing. It was nice to see him."

Toews' teammates also felt encouraged.

"He looked pretty good," Hawks defenseman Duncan Keith said. "It was good to see his face all red and sweating coming off the ice, like he'd just been working hard. Hadn't seen that in a while, so it was nice to see."

Fellow defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson also liked what he saw from the team's top-line center and emotional leader.

"It's a step in the right direction, for sure," he said. "I think he likes being out there, too, instead of just being in the gym doing whatever he's doing. It's probably nice just to go out on the ice again."

If anybody knows the feeling, it's Hjalmarsson -- who's "hopeful" to return against the Rangers from his own upper-body injury believed to stem from a concussion. Hjalmarsson has missed 13 of the past 14 games, including the last six in a row after returning for just one game from a seven-game absence and then leaving the lineup again.

Hjalmarsson said conditioning becomes a big part of the equation toward the tail end of the recovery process. Thus, he knows what kind of skating work Toews has ahead of him before he's cleared to return for games.

"It's pretty amazing how long it takes to get back in shape and how fast it goes away," Hjalmarsson said. "It usually takes awhile to get back into good shape."

In other Hawks-related injury news, fourth-line center Jamal Mayers didn't skate because of what Quenneville called a "maintenance day," while defensemen Sami Lepisto and Steve Montador also didn't participate.

According to Quenneville, Lepisto will be out "indefinitely" with a lower-body injury that occurred in the second period of Chicago's last game. St. Louis forward David Perron fell on his left leg and he had trouble putting weight on the leg as he left the ice gingerly.

Montador is also out with an upper-body injury believed to be concussion-related, but has been skating on his own recently.
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