GLENDALE, Ariz. — Jonathan Toews looked like a much healthier guy during the Blackhawks’ 35-minute practice session on Wednesday.
In other words, it was a complete 180 degrees from how he felt just over a week ago, when his illness caught up to him so much that he couldn’t play in the third period against the Carolina Hurricanes. And while Toews didn’t like having to miss the All-Star weekend in Nashville, using that week to get healthy was ultimately the best decision he could’ve made.
Toews said he is “very close” to 100 percent and he’ll play on Thursday night when the Blackhawks face the Arizona Coyotes. Toews battled illness for about two weeks — he took several morning skates off but played in all the games entering the All-Star break. He’s still not quite sure what he had, but whatever it was, it sapped him to the point that he had nothing left last Tuesday in Carolina.
“It was a lot of body aches and trouble sleeping, and it turned into a really bad cough where I was having trouble breathing on the ice,” Toews said on Wednesday. “It was just kind of a progression over pretty much a two-week period where it just kept getting worse. The fact that we were playing that many games, I just didn’t get a chance to recuperate and get back to 100 percent. So obviously ... this past week was pretty beneficial in that sense.”
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The NHL named Toews as the Blackhawks’ second representative for last weekend’s All-Star festivities — Patrick Kane was voted in — but Toews bowed out last Thursday.
“It’s not an easy thing, considering the fact that you want to be there, you want to represent your team and your teammates and be there for the Hawks fans that are behind you. It’s always an honor and a special thing to be a part of something like that. But it just got to the point where things were not getting better,” Toews said. “The last number of games before the break were tough for us as a team, but for myself personally, I was (regressing) more and more. And coming down to it in the bigger picture, it was the right thing to do to make sure I was ready to play and be healthy coming out of the break.”
Per NHL rules, Toews was suspended for Tuesday’s game against the Colorado Avalanche. Toews could have opted to miss the Blackhawks’ game against Carolina, the one he didn’t finish, but it sounds like he figured his illness would pass faster than it did.
“I guess there (are) just some moments where you have to be stubborn a little bit. You try and play through some things and obviously in that case, with what I was dealing with, you just hope it’s going to go away,” Toews said. “It just doesn’t, and it gets to the point where that’s the decision we had to make.”
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Toews did what was necessary to get healthy again. The Blackhawks got a collective effort from everyone in his absence on Tuesday night, taking a 2-1 victory over the Avalanche. It was nerve-wracking for Toews to be watching from the sidelines. Now that he’s healthy, he can go back to being part of things.
“It doesn’t matter, any type of game when you’re watching, it’s always harder as an observer when you’re not quite in control, or at least you feel like you’re not in control of everything,” he said. “I think the boys were prepared yesterday, they were ready to go, and they did a great job. Obviously (I’m) excited and happy to be back amongst the group today and get back in the routine again.”