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Jonathan Toews confident he’ll play in Hawks’ playoff opener

Chicago Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews skates toward net during game with MinnesotWild Thursday January 12 2012 United Center. | Tom

Chicago Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews skates toward the net during a game with the Minnesota Wild Thursday January 12, 2012 at the United Center. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: May 11, 2012 8:12AM

It has been a familiar refrain for captain Jonathan Toews during the last two weeks.

Toews, who missed the last 22 games of the regular season with a concussion, has been hoping to
return to the Blackhawks’ lineup but has been unable to say for certain exactly when that will happen.

‘‘I’m very confident,’’ Toews said after practice Monday when asked whether he would play Thursday in Game 1 of the Hawks’ playoff
series against the Phoenix Coyotes. ‘‘Every time you’ve asked me about the next game, I’ve always told you, ‘Yeah, I’m going to be right in there.’

‘‘We wanted to err kind of on the cautious side by me not playing [in the last few regular-season games], and I’m feeling more confident that Thursday might be the day. But we’ll see when the time comes.’’

Last week, Toews told reporters he felt his symptoms return
after getting his heart-rate elevated
during workouts. On Monday, he seemed determined to manage them.

‘‘I wouldn’t call them symptoms anymore,’’ he said. ‘‘I’m just working on conditioning and getting ready to go so I don’t get tired in a game. I think there are always some feelings there that are going to come back, and it’s probably going to be the same thing in a game.’’

Toews’ words always carry weight. But his actions at practice Monday spoke volumes about his likely inclusion in the lineup Thursday.

Toews took regular shifts at center on the Hawks’ top line, with Patrick Kane on the left wing and Marian Hossa on the right. Toews also saw time on the top power-play unit for the first time since he
began skating after the injury.

Kane and Hossa have been
reluctant in the past to play left wing, but the pairing makes sense. Coach Joel Quenneville is hesitant about breaking up his second and third lines, and the move would give the Hawks three playmakers on the top line.

‘‘We haven’t played many games like that — me, Jonny and Kaner,’’ Hossa said. ‘‘Hopefully, it’s going to work as soon as possible.’’

The instant chemistry the Hawks are hoping for is going to require
effort, Kane said.

‘‘It’s not anything you can take for granted,’’ Kane said. ‘‘It’s something you’re going to have to work for to make sure it works. If we just go out and think our skill is going to take over, especially in a playoff series and [with] the way Phoenix plays, it’s not going to work. We have to make sure we’re working hard.’’

Contributing: Adam L. Jahns

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