CHICAGO -- Two pieces of news were of interest coming out of Chicago Blackhawks practice on Thursday: Jonathan Toews is not on the verge of returning to the lineup and Corey Crawford now has the net. But both issues are murky.
Not too long ago, Toews was hopeful that he would be back playing by now. That notion is proving to be wishful thinking. After skating and practicing for four days, he’s off the ice again.
“If we saw him out there, he would be fine,” coach Joel Quenneville said Thursday in regards to a return of Toews’ concussion symptoms.
Quenneville said Toews skated a “bit” on Wednesday. But after missing practice Thursday and being declared out for Friday’s game, it seems like the Hawks are back to square one with the most important player on the team.
“We were hoping he would be back earlier than this,” Quenneville said. “Part of it you just have to deal with it and be optimistic and go from there.”
In other words, it’s simply a wait-and-see game. Talk of shutting a player down doesn’t really apply to concussions, unless it’s simply debilitating, such as the one Chris Pronger suffered earlier this year. Toews is already shut down until his symptoms clear. Why would a team declare he’s done for a certain amount of time when he might be symptom free in a day? No one can predict it. Not the player, not the coach, not even the doctors -- as evidenced by the fact it looked like Toews would be back by now.
So Hawks nation has to wait and see. There are 11 games to go in the regular season, Toews has 11 games to get healthy or spring hockey might not last very long in Chicago.
Hawks going with Crawford … for now
Quenneville didn’t make it completely clear that Crawford would be his starter on Friday in Dallas if Ray Emery wasn’t sick with the flu -- but he all but intimated it.
“We had confidence he could get the net back and here we are,” Quenneville said.
It’s the right call. Why not ride whatever wave there is coming off the come-from-behind win against St. Louis on Tuesday? Maybe it’s the spark Crawford needs after stopping 18 shots in relief and all three shooters in the shootout.
“It was nice to get into one, especially a come-back win like that,” Crawford said. “I can definitely feed off that. I just have to be prepared for every game, better prepared for every game. And try to bring this momentum into the playoffs.”
Sounds like Crawford is gearing up to be the man for April. It might seem late, but Quenneville still has time to decide which guy he wants to go with come playoff time. But this has to be Crawford’s last shot. If he falters mightily, it will be Emery’s net for good. And what better test than the Dallas Stars, the team the Hawks would currently open the postseason against.
“That’s a tough team we’re going up against,” Crawford said. “They’re playing really good hockey in their last 10 games. We have to be ready. We’ve got some energy feeding off this last win in the shootout. It’s going to be a really good game I think.”
Crawford will have to match the red-hot Kari Lehtonen save for save. If he does, the net will be his. It just doesn’t feel like the stretch run for the Hawks without some indecision in net, does it?
After a feisty night against his former team (the Blues) on Tuesday, Jamal Mayers disagreed with the instigator penalty given to Brandon Bollig late in the first period. Bollig came to Mayers’ defense after the latter got hit hard, and a little high by tough guy Ryan Reaves.
“Instigating should be reserved for when a guy starts to fight with a guy that doesn’t want to fight or has a clear mismatch,” Mayers said. “Just because you didn’t give a guy a choice doesn’t mean you necessarily instigated it.”
Bollig was happy to oblige, but he also disagreed with the penalty. It was Bollig’s fifth fight in seven career games. He’s dropped the gloves in four straight.
“He’s a guy that’s been willing to do that,” Mayers said. “He wants to make a name for himself. I tell him before the game he doesn’t have to fight every game.”
As for the Blues, Mayers has the ultimate respect for them even though he was chirping them for most of the game after the Reaves hit. But Mayers also liked how his own team showed fight to come back and win the game. The kind of fight that’s needed in the postseason.
“You’re definitely going to have to play that way in the playoffs,” Mayers said. “It’s a war of attrition throughout the playoff. You have to match the competitive level that different teams have and I think St. Louis is at the higher echelon of that.”
-Quenneville said Niklas Hjalmarsson’s injury, which had him leaving Tuesday’s game, isn’t related to a recent concussion. Sources close to the situation say Hjalmarsson has also been battling a rib injury. He’ll travel to Dallas but it’s unclear if he’ll play Friday.
-Sean O’Donnell is prepared to play if Hjalmarsson can’t. O’Donnell has been a healthy scratch since the Hawks acquired Johnny Oduya seven games ago.
“I feel good,” O’Donnell said. “You always have to be ready for these kinds of things.”
-Jimmy Hayes is coming off a season low 3:01 of ice time on Tuesday.
“I have to bring some more energy,” he said. “I have to play physical. If I want to be effective and help the team win here that’s what I have to do…My size and speed make me effective. I have to bring that every night.”
-With Ray Emery out with an illness Hawks equipment guy Jim Heintzelman filled in at practice on Thursday.
“We were watching him warm-up and he couldn’t really catch the puck,” Kane laughed afterward. “[Dave] Bolland ripped a slapper right here [pointing to shoulder]. I’m sure he’ll be dead after practice today.”
“It’s a fun time of year for sure. Probably everyone’s favorite part of the year,” -Kane, on the nice weather and playoffs looming.