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Possible setback for Jonathan Toews

Chicago Blackhawks Vs New York Islanders. 3rd-Period.  Blackhawks goaltender No.19 Jonathan Towes battles along boards with New York Islanders

Chicago Blackhawks Vs New York Islanders. 3rd-Period. Blackhawks goaltender No.19 Jonathan Towes battles along the boards with New York Islanders No.15 PA Parenteau. Friday December 2 Th, 2011 I Scott Stewart~Sun-Times

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Updated: April 19, 2012 8:22AM

On the same day Sidney Crosby was making headlines for returning to the ice for the Pittsburgh Penguins after his long battle with a concussion, Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews was still recovering from his own.

A few days ago, there was plenty of optimism surrounding Toews. But Thursday, coach Joel Quenneville used the word “setback” when talking about Toews after previously declining to use the description.

Toews recently said he didn’t feel like he’d be out as long as Crosby, who played in only eight games in 141/2 months before Thursday. But every day Toews doesn’t skate increases the level of concern.

“Whether it’s a setback or it’s part of the process, that’s what we’re dealing with,” Quenneville said. “It’s a concern. You miss a guy like that.”

After skating four days in a row, Toews rested for two before briefly taking the ice Wednesday. Toews didn’t skate Thursday or travel with the team to Dallas. He’ll miss his 12th game in a row Friday against the Stars and has yet to be cleared for contact.

When Toews first spoke of his concussion, he said he was taking into account everything from how he feels when he wakes up to how he feels after practicing.

“You want to be able to do those things without thinking about it at all and without having any of those feelings,” Toews said.

While not speaking specifically about Toews or any other athlete, Elizabeth M. Pieroth, a clinical neuropsychologist from the Midwest Center for Concussion Care and a concussion consultant for the Bears, Hawks and other NHL players since 1997, said there are setbacks when dealing with concussions, but it’s “a pretty generic term.”

Pieroth, who spoke in general terms about athletes and concussions, said symptoms often return “because you’ve done something that’s aggravated it. You were too active or did something too demanding when you should have been resting.”

“Research shows that right after an acute injury, rest is the only thing you can do for a concussion,” Pieroth said. “That just means reducing the amount of stimulation the brain is exposed to. There is no support of long-term rest [where] somebody would have to significantly limit their activity after longer periods of time. But right after an injury, you want to slow athletes down as soon as possible.”

Toews, who admittedly tried playing through his early symptoms, said he looks at Crosby’s case as a reason to side with caution. Toews also said he exchanged texts with Crosby regarding whom he saw during his recovery.

“He’s a good guy to look at to kind of remind you that it’s not a good thing to rush,” Toews said. “He’s the best there is in this game. I’m sure he wants to get back in there with his team as much as anybody.

“There has got to be all sorts of pressure from all over for a guy like that to come back and maybe play through something like this. He was being smart about it, so that’s what you’ve got to do.”

Toews, one of the NHL’s best all-around players, is probably feeling pressure, too. The Hawks have gone 6-4-1 without him, but only 11 games remain before the playoffs.

The Hawks also have battled plenty of injuries, particularly on defense. Steve Montador (concussion) hasn’t played in more than a month, Sami Lepisto (left leg) is out indefinitely and Niklas Hjalmarsson (upper body) is questionable with an injury that is unrelated to his previous concussion.

Toews, though, must take into account his personal future, too.

“Sometimes you might feel invincible, like there is nothing that can stop you from playing whether it’s a knee injury or a shoulder injury,” Toews said. “You don’t really think about what it’s going to be like 10 to 15 years from now. All you’re concerned with is getting back to 100 percent and getting back to that point where you can go out there and play again.

“[But] when you have a lot of time to yourself, sitting in a dark room at home, you think about that a little bit. But right now, I just take it one step at a time and think about the right things to do for this to heal and for myself to feel good again.”

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