Sunday’s absence from the Blackhawks’ lineup marked the sixth-straight contest in which Jonathan Toews was on the shelf with a back injury, and it sure doesn’t sound as though he’s going to be back in time for the midweek tilt against the Arizona Coyotes.
Ahead of the meeting with the Winnipeg Jets Sunday, Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said the back injury that Toews, 28, has been dealing with since late-November isn’t getting any better, and Quenneville went as far to say that Toews will be kept out of practice for the next several days.
"We’ll keep him off the ice," Quenneville said, according to the Chicago Tribune’s Chris Hine. "He was out there for a little bit this morning there and we’ll keep him off for a few days and get a better assessment the middle of the week or so."
Toews’ injury came in the second period of the Blackhawks’ Nov. 23 meeting with the San Jose Sharks. Toews was battling for the puck alongside the boards with Sharks captain Joe Pavelski and was knocked to the ice. As he fell, he seemed to twist his body. Toews remained on the ice for a short while, but didn’t return to the contest once leaving the ice following the fall:
At the time, Quenneville said the hope was that Toews’ injury wasn’t anything serious or that would keep him out long-term, but it’s getting perilously close to being an ailment that has become both serious and long-term.
It’s not as if Chicago hasn’t managed without Toews — they’re 3-2-1 without No. 19 in the lineup — but it’s been abundantly clear how much the Blackhawks miss him.
Outside of the trio of Patrick Kane, Artemi Panarin and Artem Anisimov, the line juggling has been consistent from Quenneville and the offense has slowed significantly. Chicago was averaging three goals per game in the early part of the campaign, but have only been able to muster 1.83 per game in the six games that Toews has been sidelined. Toews’s four goals and 12 points weren’t dominant offensive totals, sure, but his ability with the puck makes him a threat each time he’s on the ice.
None of this is to mention the impact defensively that losing Toews, one of the best two-way pivots in the league, has on the Blackhawks.
If Toews is out of Tuesday’s game against the Coyotes, as it appears he will be, his seven-game absence the third-longest of his career.
Want more in-depth features and expert analysis on the game you love? Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.