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Toews skates for fourth straight day, eyes Tuesday

by Brian Hedger
CHICAGO -- Jonathan Toews skated for the fourth straight day and third in a row with his Chicago Blackhawks teammates on Sunday morning at the United Center, which was another positive sign in his recovery from a concussion.

Toews will miss Sunday night's game against the visiting Los Angeles Kings, which will be his 10th straight game out of action, but he continues to feel optimistic about his eventual return. After Saturday's practice, Toews mentioned that he was hoping to be ready for Tuesday's home showdown against Central Division rival St. Louis, but qualified the statement by saying he was still just taking his availability on a day-to-day basis.

He said the pretty much same thing after Sunday's workout.

"About the same thing," the Hawks captain replied, when asked how he felt on Sunday. "I'm getting closer and closer as far as how I feel injurywise, but definitely can tell my conditioning needs some work. So, we'll work on that, too. I'm feeling better and better every day and more like myself out there. Just got to keep working through it."

As for the possibility of playing on Tuesday against the Blues?

"Like I said, every time we play a game I hope [to return] for that game," Toews said. "I'm not thinking about missing the game on Tuesday. I'm more focused on how this practice went and what I've got to do the rest of the day. I'm obviously not ready to play [right now]. If it comes to Tuesday and I feel the same way, I'll probably be saying the same thing. Let's just take it one day at a time."

Hawks coach Joel Quenneville mimicked that sentiment.

"He'll determine a lot of that," Quenneville said of Toews possibly playing on Tuesday. "He's got to pass some hurdles, as well. He's excited getting back on the ice. It was a long time coming for him and not [being] active like he'd like to be is probably frustrating for him. So, he's excited knowing he's out there and he's getting close."

One guy who's excited that Toews isn't quite ready yet is Los Angeles Kings coach Darryl Sutter, who will face the Hawks on Sunday night without having to worry about Chicago's dynamic captain.

"Well, he's kind of one of my favorite players," Sutter said. "So, it'd be nice to see him and not to coach against him.  He's probably the best two-way player in the NHL. [He's] a good faceoff man, good on the power play, good penalty killer, captain, plays 20 minutes, able to play a physical game but also plays the speed game. [It's] pretty tough to find anything like that. Nice to see him, but it's nice not playing him."

Toews said he hopes to get his clearance for contact in practice soon, however. Once that happens, both he and the Hawks ought to better know when he can return to playing in games.

"It's one step at a time," Toews said. "That might be the next step, so hopefully we can get that checked off the list here."

Toews was also asked if he's symptom free right now, which he said was not the case.

 "I wouldn't say I'm 100 percent," Toews said. "If I was, I'd be ready to push myself right to the limit to get back in the lineup. I'm still being smart and not rushing that too quickly, where I'm not quite 100 percent yet."

The fiery Hawks emotional leader is also not spending time getting his teammates fired up before home games that he's not able to play. His nickname is "Captain Serious" and it was assessed to him for a reason.

"If you're not playing, for the most part, you're worried about yourself and what you have to do to get yourself back in the lineup," Toews said. "For the guys [who] are playing, they've got their own routines and things to do to get ready. Kind of the last thing they want to get in the way is an injured guy who might be a little looser and more relaxed because he's not going through that same pressure that getting ready for a game puts on you. So, I'm not really that involved ... not as much as I'd like to be, I guess."
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