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Blackhawks will be in repeat mode if Toews, Kane are at their best


G1: 7 p.m. Thursday at St. Louis, CSN

G2: 2 p.m. Saturday at St. Louis, Ch. 5

G3: 7:30 p.m. next Monday at United Center, CSN

G4: 8:30 p.m. April 23 at United Center, CSN

G5: 7 p.m. April 25 at St. Louis*, CSN

G6: 2 p.m. April 27 at United Center*, Ch. 5

G7: TBD April 29 at St. Louis*, CSN

Best of seven; *-if necessary

Blackhawks vs. Blues: First-round playoff schedule

Updated: May 16, 2014 6:37AM

The Blackhawks’ defense of the Stanley Cup got off to a positive start Monday, when the first two skaters for an optional workout stepped on the ice at Johnny’s ­IceHouse West.

Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews.

That automatically makes the Hawks stronger than they’ve been in two weeks as they prepare to face the Blues in the first round of the playoffs Thursday in St. Louis. Kane has missed the last 12 games with a sprained knee. Toews missed the last six games with an unidentified upper-body injury after taking a hit from Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik.

While their return is the best news yet for a Hawks team that sloshed its way through the second half of the regular season, it doesn’t come without some trepidation in the form of two huge questions: How effective will Toews and Kane be in their first real games? And how quickly can the Hawks hit full stride once Toews and Kane are re-introduced to the lineup?

Toews said he felt ‘‘really good’’ and ‘‘absolutely’’ recharged after skating Monday with Kane, goaltenders Corey Crawford and Antti Raanta and defenseman Michal Rozsival and proclaimed himself ready to go for the playoffs.

‘‘I don’t feel like I lost anything,’’ Toews said. ‘‘It was only a short while to be away from playing. I’m not too worried about being rusty or any adjustment I have to go through.

‘‘For anyone who’s been playing right until the end of the season, it’s going to be an adjustment with the speed of the playoffs. So everyone’s going to have to step it up a little bit.’’

Toews’ amazing record of accomplishment in hockey is built on a foundation of self-control, self-confidence and never showing weakness. If he were anything less than 100 percent, he wouldn’t tell us. On the other hand, when Toews — with his two Stanley Cups and two Olympic gold medals — says he’s more rested than rusty, who can argue with him?

Toews figures to be as effective and productive as when he left. His injury isn’t going to prevent him from doing what he does best — which is being at the right place at the right time.

And, as with every other facet of his game, Toews has history on his side. In 2012, he missed the last 22 games of the regular season with a concussion. He returned for the playoff opener and needed all of 4:04 to score the Hawks’ first goal against the Coyotes. He added an assist and was a plus-4 through the first two games of that series, both on the road.

Kane’s return comes with a little more uncertainty. Like Toews, he feels rested, recharged and ready to go. But the nature of his injury — a knee — and the dynamic ­nature of his game leave even Kane a little less definite about his effectiveness in Game 1.

‘‘I feel pretty good,’’ Kane said. ‘‘While the team was on the road, myself and Johnny did some contact drills just to kind of gauge where we’re at . . . so I guess we’ll know a little bit more in practice [Tuesday] and Wednesday. But we’re at the point where you feel properly healed, and if you play, it’s not going to hurt it any more than if you played at a later date.’’

Coach Joel Quenneville didn’t have any concern about either player. He’s putting his faith in the fact that they are Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.

‘‘We know they’re ready,’’ Quenneville said. ‘‘They haven’t played games in a while. But the level they’re accustomed to playing at, they should be fine.’’

Should be. But, as Quenneville himself likes to say, we’ll see.


Twitter: @MarkPotash

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