For the first time in 407 days, Jonathan Toews played in a hockey game on Wednesday night. But you wouldn't have thought that based on his performance.
The Blackhawks captain had an assist, three shots on goal, two takeaways, a shootout goal and won 15 of 21 faceoffs for a percentage of 71.5 in Chicago's preseason opener at the United Center. It was just like old times again.
"It felt great," Toews said following a 4-3 shootout loss to the Detroit Red Wings. "I was really happy to be back in the room, out on the ice. Pretty amazing turnout with the fans tonight. Obviously got my work cut out for me, but it's coming."
Perhaps the most notable stat? Toews recorded 22:48 of ice time. For reference, he logged exactly 18 minutes of ice time in the last game he played, which came in Game 5 of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs when the Blackhawks were eliminated by Vegas.
Only Wyatt Kalynuk (25:02) logged more minutes on the team than Toews on Wednesday, a positive sign as the 33-year-old center continues to take steps towards getting back into regular-season game shape.
"Is that what it was?" Toews responded when asked about his ice time. "It felt like that pretty much. I can't say I expected that, but even though it doesn't look pretty yet, everyone is going through the motions trying to find their groove a little bit, find our team game. ... That's the whole point of these games, to try to settle in a little bit."
Head coach Jeremy Colliton wasn't expecting to play him that much either, but the circumstances played a factor in the high number. Toews logged 3:28 on the power play, 1:12 on the penalty kill and 2:17 in overtime.
Still, that's 18:08 of ice time at even strength, and Toews' body responded well to the heavy workload right out of the gates.
"No, I wasn't planning on 22 but I thought he looked good," Colliton said. "He responded better than I hoped, so we'll see. We'll monitor it, take it day by day and see how he feels tomorrow. But it was nice to have him back."
The Blackhawks kick off the 2021-22 season on Oct. 13 in Colorado and, given what we saw in Wednesday's preseason opener, it's difficult to see Toews not being on the ice for Opening Night. That's an exciting thought for Chicago.
But let's not look too far ahead. Right now, Toews is just trying to take it one day at a time, soak everything in and get reacclimated to the routine, which he dearly missed.
"There's a lot of little things you just take for granted," Toews said. "It becomes so routine, so repetitive after a while. To be out of that and out of sync and be so removed from the game, you get to look back and get a new appreciation for it and you look forward to those little things you didn't realize you missed."