Jonathan Toews is hoping to return and Dave Bolland and Andrew Brunette will be ready to go when the Chicago Blackhawks play the Phoenix Coyotes in Game 1 of their first-round series on Thursday.
Toews has been practicing with the Blackhawks for quite awhile now and has passed all the necessary protocol. But a big sign he could return for Game 1 came at Monday's practice, when Toews was centering the top line with Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa -- with Kane on the left side -- and working with the No. 1 power-play unit. Toews was feeling confident about possibly returning Thursday but didn't give a true yes to it. He has missed the last 22 games, including the final two regular-season ones when he went on the trip and had hoped to play.
"We wanted to err on the cautious side by me not playing (at the end of the regular season). I'm feeling more confident that Thursday might be the day but well see when that time comes," said Toews. "Whenever I come back, Ill definitely want to keep it simple and go out and play a gritty game. The key is not trying to do too much."
When he does come back, the Blackhawks will try that group with Kane at left wing. It will be another adjustment for Kane, who has played that spot sparingly in his career.
"Its fine. Ill get used to it sooner or later. Its good we have a few practices to get adjusted," he said. "We just want to play with the puck and work hard. Especially with the skill we have, it seems like it could be a fun line."
Bolland, who missed the Blackhawks final two regular-season games, said he was just healing "bumps and bruises" down the stretch. He was back centering the checking line with Bryan Bickell and Andrew Shaw on Monday. Andrew Brunette, who's coming off a foot injury, was on the fourth line with Jamal Mayers and Brandon Bollig.
Former Blackhawk Patrick Sharp joins Pat Boyle on the latest episode of the Blackhawks Talk Podcast to discuss the Blackhawks' recent struggles (1:45) and to look back on winning the 2013 Stanley Cup Championship with the Hawks (7:45).
Plus, Sharpy looks back on the games following the birth of his two daughters (11:45), memories from the mother's and father's trip (13:45) and finally starting a new chapter with his broadcasting career (15:00).
Listen to the full episode here or in the embedded player below:
Blackhawks Talk Podcast
The Blackhawks placed defenseman Duncan Keith and forward Andrew Shaw on injured reserve Friday, retroactive to Nov. 29 and 30, respectively. The move opens up two spots on the 23-man roster, although the team did not make any corresponding transactions due to cap reasons.
Keith, who has missed the last three games with a groin injury, and Shaw, who is in the league's concussion protocol, will not play in Friday's game against the New Jersey Devils but they will both be eligible to return after that, whenever they're cleared to do so. Injured reserve requires a player to miss a minimum of seven days from their retroactive date.
The Blackhawks do not receive any cap relief by putting Keith and Shaw on regular injured reserve, but if their injuries continue to linger, the team could transfer one or both to long-term injured reserve (LTIR) for financial reasons, which would force them to miss a minimum of 10 games and 24 days from the time of their injury.
The Blackhawks do not have the cap space to make a call-up and with Drake Caggiula, who's on LTIR, inching closer to a return, that complicates things from a financial standpoint. They're currently sitting at 21 players and have $240,030 in projected cap space, according to Cap Friendly.
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