Jonathan Toews sitting out Sunday’s contest against the Dallas Stars marked the ninth-straight outing in which the Chicago Blackhawks captain watched from the sideline, and there’s no certainty that he’ll be back as part of the upcoming three-game road trip.
Despite the fact Toews has taken some time off the ice and said he was feeling good after getting a skate in ahead of Sunday’s game, the 28-year-old center said he can’t make any promises about when exactly he’ll be able to get back into the lineup.
Toews injured himself during a Nov. 23 contest against the San Jose Sharks when he fell awkwardly following a puck battle with Joe Pavelski. Toews left the game seconds after the fall, didn’t return and has been sidelined since with an injury he said he’s never had to deal with before. What plagues him now, Toews said, is that he can feel good one moment and be dealing with the pain of the reported back injury the next.
“It is that type of injury that’s tough because you almost have to sit around and wait for it to heal and get better,” Toews said. “Then sometimes you feel good and then all of a sudden you do some little movements here and there that seem to just fire everything up.”
It’s because of the nature of his injury that no one really knows when he’ll be back, either. Coach Joel Quenneville said that he couldn’t give an exact timeline on Toews’ potential return, and he wouldn’t even rule out the possibility that Toews could be out until after the holiday break. The uncertainty is weighing on Toews, too.
“The frustrating thing is you keep getting asked the question (about playing) and you feel like the next game was going to be the game you’re getting back,” Toews said. “There’s only so many times you can keep giving yourself or others bad news. You just gotta really work and be patient in that sense.”
Toews wouldn’t rule out a return during the road trip altogether, but he said a wait-and-see approach was necessary. The patience comes with good reason, though, as the Blackhawks, who’ve been a perennial playoff team over the past several seasons and a near-constant threat to make a push deep into the post-season, are trying their best to keep the long-term in mind instead of rushing their captain back into action before he’s ready.
“We feel he can be close, but, then again, we want to make sure that there’s some certainty that he’s going to be fine and that we’re not going to go backwards on this one,” Quenneville said of Toews’ timeline for return. “So let’s make sure we’re all cleared going forward.”
Of course, there would likely be more of a rush for Toews to get back into action were the Blackhawks struggling without him. In the nine games Chicago has played without Toews, they’ve gone 5-2-2, and while the offense has struggled to the tune of a mere 18 goals for, the defense has been smothering allowing only 15 over that span.
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