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Toews' Olympic push under way
By Tim Sassone | Daily Herald Staff

The Blackhawks' Patrick Kane kneels on the ice after suffering a blow to the head during the first period Sunday night against the Lightning. Kane left the game after the injury.

 

Associated Press

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Published: 12/14/2009 12:07 AM

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A case could be made that Sunday began an important 11-day stretch for Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews.

With the selection process for the Canadian Olympic team coming down to the wire, Toews is said to be in the thick of the mix and gaining momentum to earn perhaps the last spot at center, assuming Sidney Crosby, Joe Thornton and Ryan Getzlaf are the top three.

Toews put forth a terrific effort in Sunday's 4-0 win over Tampa Bay. He was plus-2 with a goal and 4 hits and stood up to the Lightning when it tried to turn things chippy.

Tampa Bay's Vincent Lecavalier, once considered a good bet to make Team Canada, was minus-3 in the loss as his Olympic stock continues to plummet.

On Friday the Hawks play Boston, and Toews can go head to head with Patrice Bergeron, who is making a strong push to be considered at center.

Then next Sunday and again Dec. 23, Toews gets to play in front of Red Wings coach Mike Babcock, who also is Canada's head coach. There's a good chance Red Wings executive Steve Yzerman, Canada's general manager, also will be at those games as well.

Yzerman plans to announce his 23-man Team Canada roster on either Dec. 30 or 31.

"It crosses your mind a little bit, but the No. 1 focus is you want to play as well as you can for the team you're on," Toews said.

"If it comes down to a couple of us getting that opportunity, that's great. We've got a great team and a lot of guys deserve it. It would be awesome if it happened, but my No. 1 focus is with our team."

Lightning strikes: It was Matt Smaby who tripped Patrick Kane into the boards in the first period and then delivered a late hit on Jonathan Toews in the second.

Tampa Bay tried to get chippy most of the night. In the third period Todd Fedoruk deliberately put a shoulder into Hawks goalie Antti Niemi after Lightning coach Rick Tocchet sent out his tough guys to kill a penalty after it was 4-0.

"I'm not really sure what the point of it all was," Hawks defenseman Duncan Keith said. "The score was 4-0. I think they were just frustrated."

Hawks coach Joel Quenneville was asked about the two incidents involving Smaby.

"The one was a trip and the other one you can argue was a late hit, but I'm not complaining," Quenneville said.