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Hawks captain Jonathan Toews will return in Game 1 vs. Coyotes

Updated: April 12, 2012 3:14PM

GLENDALE, Ariz. —The wait is over. After almost a two-month layoff, Jonathan Toews will return to the Blackhawks lineup Thursday against the Phoenix Coyotes in Game 1 of their best-of-seven series.

Toews has missed the last 22 games with a concussion. Toews, who last played on Feb. 19, will center a very scary-looking first line with stars Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa.

“It looks good,” Toews said. “I’ve kind of stuck with the program all week. With the trainers, we’ve made the decision that if I feel comfortable playing, it’s time to go. So I’m excited about it.”

Toews was having a Hart Trophy worthy season before his concussion derailed everything. He finished the regular season with 29 goals, 57 points and a plus-17 rating in 59 games.

The Hawks managed to go 13-5-4 without him, but he was undoubtedly missed, especially in the faceoff circle and both special teams.

Toews also will join Hossa, Kane, Patrick Sharp and Brent Seabrook on the Hawks’ first power-play unit against the defensive-minded Coyotes.

“I’m very excited,” Toews said. “I don’t think I’ve gone through anything like this in my career, where it’s been touch-and-go for just [under] two months. You don’t really know when you’re going to be 100 percent when you’re doing everything you can and it seems to always be the same thing every time you wake up.

“But these last couple weeks have been really good, and I worked really hard not only to get over this but to feel ready and feel well enough to play a game. I’m really happy about that, and not only myself, but the rest of the guys are excited to go out there and play tonight.”

Coach Joel Quenneville called Game 1 of a playoff series a “great place” for Toews to make his return.

“He’s a top player and a great leader,” Quenneville said. “We always feel the bigger the game, the bigger the challenge for him, and he rises to all occasions.”

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