Keith ready to return; Toews cautious

The Hawks have been able to withstand the losses of Jonathan Toews and Duncan Keith. Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images

CHICAGO -- One walked his dogs with his free time while the other hung out with his injured brother. But come Thursday, Duncan Keith and Jonathan Toews may be back to work.

Keith -- the dog walker -- will be for sure. His five-game suspension for his illegal elbow to the head of Vancouver's Daniel Sedin is over and he says he's ready to help for the final playoff push.

"It was tough," Keith said after practicing on Tuesday. "Obviously you want to be out there playing and helping the guys. I just want to help out and keep it going."

His teammates went 2-1-2 without him in the lineup. Not bad but not as impressive as the 13-5-3 mark without Toews. The captain isn't saying for sure he'll play Thursday as he recovers from a concussion, but he's on the cusp.

"It's tough to know 110 percent if the time is right to go back in and play," he said. "Have to have that gut instinct that it feels right it's time to play."

So it's not about symptoms or conditioning, just whether it "feels" right.

"It's up to him," Joel Quenneville said. "He's progressing enough, he'll make that call."

So maybe the Hawks just don't want to jinx themselves by declaring Toews is back more than 48 hours before game time. After all he could wake up on Wednesday or Thursday or even from Thursday afternoon's nap and not feel right. Expect similar responses after practice on Wednesday. Only sometime Thursday will Toews and the rest of us know for sure if he's ready to play for the first time in a quarter of the season.

"I would love to play in these couple games before we go into the playoffs," Toews stated. "[I'll have] fresh legs and emotionally, mentally, I'll be ready to play hockey more than anything."

There is little doubt playing in both or even one game will help with timing come the postseason. Same with Keith. Many were hopeful the time off would pay dividends for the most worked Hawk over the last few seasons. It sound like it has.

"I feel good," Keith said. "I feel stronger than I was before. Hopefully it pays off. We'll see ... My weight is back up again. I got some strength back. We're going to play a lot of games here in a short period of time so I think it will be good."

Keith made sure to say that weight is muscle not fat. Last year at this time he was about 10 pounds lighter. He thinks this will help for the long haul that the playoffs could be.

Either way, both are just glad to be off the streets.

"I walked the dogs a lot," Keith joked about his time away.

"I walked around Downtown," Toews smiled.

Now it's time to play hockey again, for both of them.