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Rough stretch for Hawks' captain Toews

by Derek Jory
A day after losing Game 1 of their Western Conference Semifinal series, the Chicago Blackhawks didn’t just practice, they had what coach Joel Quenneville called the "best practice of the year."

Heads were held extremely high by the Blackhawks during their hour-long session Friday, but when Quenneville dismissed his troops Jonathan Toews was one of the first players off the ice.

Toews is a workhorse by nature and he hasn’t been pleased with his play in the postseason thus far. Most players in that situation would spend a few extra minutes on the ice to sharpen things up.

Chicago’s captain simply hasn’t been himself of late, and it’s led to speculation that he’s either injured or ill.

The fact that Toews played less than 14 minutes in Vancouver’s 5-3 win Thursday supports that notion. He’s now gone three straight games averaging less than 15 minutes, well down from his regular season average of 18:37.

Toews being Toews, he downplayed his personal situation and said he didn’t deserve increased ice time in Game 1 because of how he was playing.

"The guys that were playing well were going out there, and in a situation like that it’s whoever is playing well and whoever is feeling that confidence is going to play and could be the difference-maker," Toews said, adding that he wasn’t one of those guys.

Although Toews guarded the truth from the hoards of media that surrounded him, he admitted he’s remaining optimistic and positive that he can play through this bad spell.

"You want to give it everything every single game, but not everything will go your way perfectly every night and we’ve got an opportunity next game to turn that around," he said.

Quenneville was quick to jump to the defense of his star forward, offering up the dreaded "upper body flu" as an explanation for Toews' lack of fireworks of late.

In all seriousness, Quenneville did reveal that Toews has actually been suffering from the flu, even though he’s too proud to admit it.

"He’s been kind of under the weather the last couple of days and he feels much better today," the coach said.

With that in mind, Quenneville didn’t want to overuse his top-line anchor in Game 1 because the Blackhawks are expecting this series to drag itself out and Chicago will need all hands on deck when it matters most in the end.

Everyone practiced for the Blackhawks except forwards Dave Bolland and Sammy Pahlsson, both of whom took the day to rest and "should be available (Saturday)," according to Quenneville.

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