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Fast start would be bonus for Blackhawks’ Jonathan Toews

Dallas Stars v Chicago Blackhawks

Dallas Stars v Chicago Blackhawks

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Updated: January 23, 2012 3:19AM

After scoring his first goal on his first shot of the first NHL game of his career, Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews has had a hard time replicating that kind of start to a season.

He needed 13 games to score his first goal in his second season, and he had only one goal in the first nine games in each of the last two seasons.

None of that has stopped him from posting solid point totals in each of his four seasons in the league, including a career-high 76 last season. But where Toews’ stats might be with a hot start is a tantalizing thought.

‘‘Each and every year he’s progressed to different levels and is at the very elite level of the game,’’ coach Joel Quenneville said Monday. ‘‘The second part of the year last year, he was as good as anybody in the game. Offensively and defensively, he could control so much of the game.’’

Toews scored his first goal of the season in the second period of the Hawks’ 5-2 victory in their home opener Saturday against the Dallas Stars.

‘‘When you get that first one, you feel like everything can start going in,’’ Toews said. ‘‘When you’ve got that confidence, you just play and don’t worry about scoring goals. If it took another game to get that first one, you start thinking about it a little more, and it can snowball.’’

‘‘He prides himself in getting better as the games and season go on,’’ Quenneville said. ‘‘The upside for him is pretty amazing, but we’re very pleased with the way he’s starting.’’

Injury maintenance

Goalie Corey Crawford sat out practice to nurse a nagging groin injury that flared up during the preseason.

‘‘It’s a lower-body injury, and we just wanted to give him a little rest after back-to-back games,’’ Quenneville said. ‘‘I thought he played very well to start [the season]. He should be out there and fine [at practice Tuesday].’’

◆ Winger Ben Smith (concussion) practiced for the first time since last week but hasn’t been cleared for contact yet.

◆ Quenneville said winger Viktor Stalberg (knee) might rejoin the team for practice Tuesday or Wednesday after skating on his own Monday.

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