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Back on the ice again, Toews says he feels 'great'
By Tim Sassone | Daily Herald Staff

Jonathan Toews

 

Bob Chwedyk file photo

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Published: 11/4/2009 1:12 PM | Updated: 11/4/2009 9:15 PM

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Blackhawks game day

Phoenix Coyotes at Jobing.com Arena, 8 p.m.

TV: Comcast SportsNet

Radio: WGN 720-AM

What to watch: Hawks captain Jonathan Toews, who has missed the last four games with a concussion, will be a game-day decision. Ben Eager won't play. Cristobal Huet starts in goal. The Coyotes took a 9-5-0 record into Wednesday's game at Colorado.

Last season: The Hawks swept the series 4-0 and outscored the Coyotes 20-4.

Next: Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center, 8 p.m. Friday.

GLENDALE, Ariz. - Jonathan Toews doesn't like to look at the replay of Willie Mitchell's big hit from Oct. 21 that knocked the Blackhawks captain out of the lineup with a concussion.

Toews staggered to his skates after taking Mitchell's shoulder to his chin, then lost his balance and fell before being helped off the ice.

"At least I went to the right bench," Toews said Wednesday after returning to practice for the first time since the injury.

Toews can joke now, but that won't be the case in a few weeks when the Hawks see Mitchell and the Canucks again Nov. 22 in Vancouver.

But first things first, and all Toews wants at the moment is to get back in the lineup. While Wednesday's on-ice session went well, the Hawks will decide today if Toews is ready to jump back in against the Coyotes.

"I guess it's still to be determined," Toews said following practice at Jobing.com Arena. "I felt great today so we've got some time in between now and tomorrow night and hopefully it keeps progressing like it has in the last week or so.

"It's all about how I feel (today) and the team has been playing good, too (3-1 without Toews). Coach just wants to make sure everything is good before I get in there and put myself to the test. Obviously the game is a lot different than practice."

Toews didn't skate with regular linemates, which could be taken to mean he won't face the Coyotes.

"It's just good to be back in the routine," Toews said. "It was frustrating to be out as long as it was, but I feel good and I feel confident out there and don't feel like I'm missing a step yet."

Hawks coach Joel Quenneville will wait to make a decision after team doctors see how Toews feels at the morning skate.

"It was his first day on the ice (Wednesday) and I thought he did real good," Quenneville said. "We'll see tomorrow how he presents and we'll evaluate that after the morning skate."

Toews said he never saw Mitchell coming that night when the Canucks' rugged veteran blindsided him in the open ice coming out of the penalty box.

Toews hadn't spoken about the hit until Wednesday and while calling it clean for the most part, it was still a blow to the head - the NHL's problem it doesn't seem to want to fix.

"It was a big hit and I had no idea the guy was there, so there's not much you can do about it," Toews said. "It's frustrating and it's not fun to watch the replays.

"It is what it is, I guess, and it's part of the game and that's what their team had to do to beat us that night. We'll definitely be ready to play that team the next time around."

Mitchell wasn't suspended, just as Hawks winger Andrew Ladd wasn't punished for his head shot on Montreal's Matt D'Agostini or Philadelphia's Mike Richards for his hit to the head of David Booth that sent the Florida Panthers' star to the hospital.

"(Mitchell's) a big solid guy who knows how to hit," Toews said. "All I can ask for is that he kept his arm down and it was his shoulder, and that's within the rules, I guess.

"Some hits deserve suspensions and others don't. I always thought it didn't really matter whether it was an elbow or as shoulder, if it's a hit to the head then it requires or deserves a bigger penalty, I think. Then again you could debate every single hit if it was bad or not until the cows come home. It's just not fun to see guys hobbling off the ice."

So should have Mitchell been suspended?

"I don't think so," Toews said. "It's a matter of opinion on a hit like that. But I think at the same time the reason I got up the way I did was I had no idea he was there. I totally didn't expect it, and beyond that I think it was a solid hit and it's part of the game. Hits like that are good for your team's momentum and that's what he was trying to do."