Blackhawks

Toews to miss ninth straight game, no timetable for return

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Toews to miss ninth straight game, no timetable for return

Jonathan Toews was feeling good after his second straight day on the ice. But the captain, whos recovering from a concussion, knows the competitor in him will just have to wait until hes properly healed.

Toews skated with his Blackhawks teammates on Friday morning, but he said he has no timetable for when he may return. The captain will miss his ninth consecutive game and said hes just concentrating on getting 100 percent again.

I feel pretty good, Toews said. I feel like Ive been off the ice doing nothing for three weeks, but considering the last two days on the ice Im lot better than I thought I would be. Im pretty positive about that.

Coach Joel Quenneville was also encouraged by Toews back-to-back skates but said theres still no definitive timeline.

We said once you get him on the ice it would be a better indication when he could be close to getting back. But its significant progress in a short amount of time, Quenneville said. Lets hope were on the same program for a little while here.

Toews said he couldnt pinpoint what hit or moment specifically triggered his concussion; his last game, Feb. 19 against St. Louis, he played in its entirety. He said he was feeling off the last few games of the teams nine-game road trip but it was one of those things that was so minor at first that it took some time to realize it was something more serious.

When it comes down to that, you hate to admit it to yourself, he said. You see so many guys around the league dealing with it and you dont want to be one of those guys. I had to rest and get better.

To make matters worse Toews had a one-car accident on Feb. 23 downtown. Asked if that exacerbated his concussion, Toews said, not at all.

A lot of people want to tie that in there with this injury but when it rains it pours. I had a rough week and throw that in there with it, he said. Its one of those embarrassing things I didnt want to get out of my car for a long time.

Toews said hell take as long as he needs to reach 100 percent again. Hell see how he feels with everything, from when he gets up in the morning to how he reacts to workouts and skating. And hell have to pass the tests, too.

Concussions have become a big NHL concern in recent years. The Blackhawks have had their share of it lately from Toews to Niklas Hjalmarsson to Steve Montador. And everyone reacts different: Hjalmarsson returns tonight against the New York Rangers; Montador skated some last week but is not this week, and may have taken a step back in his recovery.

Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby has struggled for more than a year to come back from his. Toews said hes texted with Crosby the two have the same agent but doesnt put himself in the same category right now.

Were not at that point where Im worried Im not going to make a recovery in the next little while, Toews said. It hasnt crossed my mind to start thinking about the next step and what we might have to do to make sure it heals properly.

Toews competitive side has struggled through this down time. But the thought of coming back too soon keeps him focused.

I think youd still be serious about it if it was the first time for any player. But since its not for myself, the level of urgency goes up a little bit, he said. It takes a lot of discipline to do that right now since its exciting to be back on the ice and you want to start playing right away. Ill make sure Im 100 percent when I come back and Im reducing the risk of it ever happening again.

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks visit Niklas Hjalmarsson, Coyotes

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Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks visit Niklas Hjalmarsson, Coyotes

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Arizona Coyotes Saturday night on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 7:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. Niklas Hjalmarsson's new home.

Brace yourselves, Chicago. It's going to be a weird site seeing Hjalmarsson in a different sweater other than the Blackhawks, where he spent his first 10 NHL seasons and won three Stanley Cups.

Now he serves as an alternate captain and blue-line anchor for the Coyotes, who are the only team still seeking its first win of the season. You know they'll be hungry to snap that skid, especially when there's extra motivation for a player on their team facing a bunch of old friends.

2. Connor Murphy returns to Arizona, too.

The man Hjalmarsson was traded for will also be returning to a place he called home for four years. Murphy's role with the Coyotes increased every year before he was dealt to the Blackhawks as part of a shake-up for both teams, so you know he's going to play with something to prove.

Murphy is a physical defenseman, and has laid several notable big hits this season. His former teammates surely know it, and may want to keep their heads up.

3. Patrick Kane 2.0?

Ever since he was drafted with the No. 7 overall pick in 2016, Clayton Keller has drawn comparisons to Kane. They're both undersized, offensive playmakers, possess supreme stick-handling abilities and are American-born players.

Keller got a brief taste of NHL action last year, but he's secured a full-time spot with the Coyotes this season and has been arguably their best player so far.

The 19-year-old forward paces all rookies with five goals and ranks second with seven points, and leads the Coyotes in both categories. Expect to see his name as a finalist for the Calder Trophy for the league's top rookie at the end of the season.

Anton Forsberg is giving the Blackhawks exactly what they need

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USA TODAY

Anton Forsberg is giving the Blackhawks exactly what they need

Anton Forsberg had just finished an extended morning skate Wednesday morning in St. Louis. The backup goaltender had played in one regular-season game for the Blackhawks to that point, so getting in extra work to stay sharp was helpful.

“I try to keep my focus in practice and work extra every day, get a few extra shots in practice with the extra guys who are out there, work with Jimmy and try to keep my game shape,” Forsberg said, referring to Blackhawks goaltending coach Jimmy Waite.

Whatever Forsberg’s working on in practice and skates seems to be working, because in two games with the Blackhawks he’s looked sharp. Forsberg probably deserved a victory on Thursday night when he stopped 40 shots in the Blackhawks’ 2-1 overtime loss to the Edmonton Oilers. It’s the backup life to wait and see when that next start will come, but Forsberg has been ready.

“For sure I felt more comfortable today, more used to the speed,” he said following Thursday’s game. “I felt I read the game better, felt I had more time moving around. It’s tough, again, to lose in overtime. Obviously I wanted to win and it’s frustrating.”

Frustrating for sure, but Forsberg is giving the Blackhawks exactly what they want and need: a dependable backup that gives them a chance to win. The two goals Forsberg gave up on Thursday weren’t softies, either — Patrick Maroon’s goal off a ridiculous Connor McDavid pass and Mark Letestu’s over game-winner that deflected off Brent Seabrook’s stick.

“He kept us in a tight game like he did in Toronto, got us to overtime. I kind of feel bad we didn’t get him a win in either of those,” Ryan Hartman said. “He played well both of those games. It’s nice to have a guy on the back end like that.”

Forsberg has blended in well with the Blackhawks. It helps that he already knew two of them, Brandon Saad and Artem Anisimov, his former teammates in Columbus. He and Corey Crawford already have a good rapport. Same goes for he and Waite, and Forsberg has soaked up any information they’ve given him.

“I feel like both him and Corey teach me a lot. We talk about different situations, especially all the reads,” Forsberg said. “I get to know how (Crawford) thinks the game. He’s been around a long time and has been doing well, so it’s interesting every day to hear what he has to say. Even Jimmy’s been around same thing there, discussing my game, what we want to improve, what we want to do different, what to keep the same and go from there.”

The extra work in practices and skates appears to be working as Forsberg has done a lot right in just his first two games, which were 10 days apart. The Blackhawks have had a good run of backup goaltenders; two games is a small sample size but Forsberg could be the latest reliable backup.