Toews 'happy to be back on the ice' in Hawks preseason loss to Red Wings
After more than a year away, Jonathan Toews was finally back at the United Center on Wednesday.
Back on the ice. Back playing against the Blackhawks' most hated foe in the Detroit Red Wings.
True, the long-awaited moment came in "just" a preseason game, but don't underestimate how important this moment was for the Hawks' captain.
These little victories will go a long way in determining if Toews can not only play in the season opener at Colorado on Oct. 13, but if he can play a significant role all season.
"It felt great," said Toews, who notched an assist and won 15 of 21 faceoffs during a 4-3 shootout loss. "I'm just really happy to be back in the room, out on the ice. Obviously got my work cut out for me, but it's coming."
The early signs in training camp have been encouraging and they continued during Toews' 22 minutes, 48 seconds of playing time.
Toews showed off his trademark vision and passing skills twice in the opening period, first setting up Adam Gaudette for a one-timer that Guadette failed to connect on.
A few minutes later, Toews notched the secondary assist on Dominik Kubalik's goal at 16:50.
From deep in the offensive zone Toews deftly slid the puck to Philipp Kurashev, who found Kubalik wide open in front of the net.
Now, make no mistake -- Toews' return was far from perfect, a fact he acknowledged while speaking to Eddie Olcyzk during the first intermission.
"First period, I've got some D-zone video to watch or something," Toews said, smiling. "Kind of a little lost out there."
And, yes, there's some fatigue.
"Obviously the legs are tired," said Toews, who did score in the shootout. "We've had pretty good skates in practices. But I feel better than Day One. I feel pretty good about my progress."
Brandon Hagel and newcomer Jujhar Khaira scored the Hawks' other goals. Kevin Lankinen made 30 saves in net. Patrick Kane, Alex DeBrincat and Tyler Johnson did not play.
While the UC was less than half full, those in attendance definitely let Toews how much they missed him.
"He looked good," Colliton said. "He responded better than I hoped. ...
"We'll monitor it, take it day by day and see how he feels tomorrow. It was nice to have him back, obviously."
In addition to Gaudette, Colliton was pleased with Kubalik, Kurashev and defenseman Caleb Jones.
So what's next for Toews?
Another day and another practice. Another step. And if there's a stumble or two along the way? That's OK, says GM Stan Bowman.
"We're going to be certainly working with him and seeing what he needs," Bowman said. "But at this point, we don't know how he's going to feel. ...
"The schedule gets hard. We don't know how he'll handle it. He could handle it great and if he does, then that's awesome. If not, then we'll work with him to figure it out."