Toews back on ice, return to game action uncertain
CHICAGO -- The good news for Jonathan Toews is he seems to keep making strides from what's believed to be a concussion that has kept him sidelined for eight straight games.
The bad news is he still doesn't have a definitive timeline for his return to action despite getting back on the ice the past two days -- working on his own Thursday and participating in the Chicago Blackhawks' morning skate Friday at United Center.
Toews will not play on Friday night when the Hawks host the New York Rangers, but met with reporters for the first time since leaving the lineup following a Feb. 19 home game against the St. Louis Blues.
"I feel pretty good," said Toews, the Blackhawks' captain and No. 1 center. "I feel like … I guess off the ice [I've] been doing nothing for three weeks, but considering that the last two days on the ice [were] a lot better than I thought I would be. So I'm pretty positive about that."
"You just try to stay positive with yourself and be optimistic about when you're going to heal and when you're going to recover and hope that when you do have good days that it's going to continue that way. The more you think that way, the better it is, I think." --Jonathan Toews
Toews said he doesn't know when exactly the injury occurred, but it happened at some point during Chicago's monster nine-game road stretch in February. He initially played through it, but the symptoms worsened and eventually became too much to ignore.
"The toughest thing was just kind of coming to grips with it and saying it's something I had to deal with and I couldn't keep playing with," said Toews, who still leads the Hawks in goals with 29 and is second only to Marian Hossa in points with 57. "Here I am three weeks later almost, still kind of hanging in there [and] getting better every day."
While it's been a frustrating stretch, both Toews and the Hawks are pleased with the recent developments in his recovery -- especially the on-ice work. While there still isn't a timetable for his return to games, it's always a good sign for hockey players when they can get back on skates and log some hard work.
"Once you get him on the ice, you get a better indication of when he's going to be back and when he can be close to getting back here," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. "So that's significant progress in a short amount of time here. Let's hope we're on the same program here for the next little while. It could be exciting to get him back in our lineup."
Toews also addressed the single-car accident he was involved in Feb. 23, just a few days after leaving the lineup. Toews was on his way to the United Center for the Hawks' morning skate prior to a game against the Dallas Stars when he accidentally struck a steel beam turning left onto Lake Street.
He refused medical treatment and wasn't cited by police for a traffic violation, but people had wondered if the accident might have set him back in his recovery.
"Not at all," Toews said Friday. "A lot of people kind of want to tie that in there with this injury, but I guess they say when it rains it pours. That was just kind of a rough week and threw that in there with it. It wasn't too much fun."
His ego, however, didn't escape unscathed.
"I guess it was just one of those things where I was more concerned with the traffic that was coming down the one-way and I completely didn't see the obstacle that was in front of me," Toews said. "It was one of those embarrassing things … I didn't want to get out of my car for a long time. It was around 9 [a.m.], and two hours later I'm at home getting text messages from friends back home asking me if I'm alright. I couldn't believe how fast it got around. It was kind of a crazy day, dealing with everything that was going on around it. The good thing was the only damage was to my car, so we'll live with that."
He and the Hawks, however, have lived without him in the lineup for eight games. It will become a ninth straight absence Friday night against the Rangers and possibly extend even further.
The Rangers have lost two games in row, but are still one of the League's top teams, so facing them would've been one of those games that Toews -- aka "Captain Serious" -- would savor.
Instead, like Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby and other NHL players dealing with similar issues, he'll just continue to rest and try to heal completely.
"You just try to stay positive with yourself and be optimistic about when you're going to heal and when you're going to recover and hope that when you do have good days that it's going to continue that way," said Toews, who's exchanged texts with Crosby the past couple days. "The more you think that way, the better it is, I think. This past week it's been going very well and it's exciting to be back on the ice."
This is also not the first concussion in the 23-year old Toews' brief career. He missed time during the regular season in 2010 after a big open-ice hit from then Vancouver Canucks defensemen Willie Mitchell. Toews and team doctors have also taken that prior injury into account with the treatment of this one.
"I think you'd still be really serious about it if it was your first time for any player, but since it's not for myself, the level of urgency probably goes up a little bit," Toews said. "It's happened before and you see how often it happens with players around the League. You've got to be smart about it. You want to make sure I'm 100 percent when I come back [and] that I'm reducing the risk of it ever happening again. It takes a lot of discipline to do that right now, since it's exciting to be back on the ice and you want to start playing right away."
Just how much discipline has it taken for Toews to stay out of the lineup to rest? A lot, evidently.
"I sit here and watch the guys play," Toews said. "I feel that I could easily be out there, but I've just got to get rid of those little things, I guess. I thought about a week or week-and-a-half ago that I'd be playing by now, but I think that might be the most frustrating thing and most difficult thing right now that I am back on the ice [practicing]. It's up to me to be honest with myself and be smart about it. You learn to play through so many other things, but this might be the one thing that it's not an intelligent thing to do, so I'll try to be smart about it and make sure that when I'm ready to play I'll be 100 percent and I can do it while not thinking about it at all."