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Jonathan Toews getting closer to return

Hawks forward Andrew Shaw celebrates after assisting Patrick Kane who beWild goalie Josh Harding for power-play goal. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

Hawks forward Andrew Shaw celebrates after assisting Patrick Kane, who beat Wild goalie Josh Harding for a power-play goal. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: May 3, 2012 8:16AM

The next few days will determine a lot about the status and availability of Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews as he continues to fight his way back from a concussion.

It’s no longer just about using exhausting skates as a gauge. For Toews, who was just cleared for contact, it’s about how he reacts to getting shoved and bumped when he’s on the ice.

Asked if Toews endured some contact when he skated Sunday with teammates and other staff, coach Joel Quenneville said, “They were working hard out there today. The whole crew was working out hard, but no change [for Toews].”

Is there a “designated hitter” for Toews?

“I think they were all working at it,” Quenneville said.

Toews missed his 20th consecutive game against the Minnesota Wild, but Thursday’s rematch in St. Paul, Minn., is looking like a possibility for his return. Quenneville, though, wouldn’t call that the target date.

“We’re hopeful, but there’s no target,” Quenneville said. “If he can play, he’s ready and he’ll be going. But if not, we’ll be patient.”

Banged-up Bruno

Veteran winger Andrew Brunette missed the game against the Wild with an apparent foot injury. It was the second game Brunette, one of the NHL’s most durable players, has missed this season.

Michael Frolik and Jimmy Hayes took shifts in Brunette’s spot on the first line with Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa. Brunette recently found success with the two stars after being used on every line.

“[Brunette], Kane and Hossa have done a nice job together as a line,” Quenneville said. “He finds a way to get those guys the puck. He makes little creative plays down low. He finds a way to make himself useful in the course of a game. I know he’s not the fastest guy out there, but he’s still useful in ways.”

Quenneville described Brunette’s injury as short-term.

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