Toews expects to play for Blackhawks in opener at Avalanche

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CHICAGO — Jonathan Toews said he expects to play in the regular-season opener for the Chicago Blackhawks when they visit the Colorado Avalanche at Ball Arena in Denver on Wednesday (10 p.m. ET; TNT).

“I plan to play, but it’s not my decision,” the Blackhawks captain said before Chicago played the Minnesota Wild in its final preseason game at United Center on Saturday (8:30 p.m. ET; NBCSCH). “But I don’t think that’s up in the air, I’m pretty sure.”

The 33-year-old did not play last season because of chronic immune response syndrome. He has participated in all but two practice days at Blackhawks training camp; each of those was a maintenance day. He will play in his fourth preseason game on Saturday.

Toews said he’s confident with his game right now.

“I’m pretty happy given what the last month has looked like, what I felt like going into training camp,” he said. “I just feel like I’ve taken a step almost every day, so it’s pretty exciting to think that way. I’ve got to stay with it and keep doing all the little things right, but ultimately, I like that I feel confident, my game is there, my energy is there, so I’ve just got to keep taking care of my body.”

Toews had one assist and led all forwards in averaging 22:48 of ice time in his first preseason game, a 4-3 shootout loss to the Detroit Red Wings on Sept. 29. He played 17:39 in a 6-3 loss to the St. Louis Blues on Oct. 1 and had three assists and played 17:21 in a 6-4 win at the Red Wings on Monday.

He said he didn’t expect to play this much in the preseason.

“To be honest with you, a week or two away from camp, I was a little worried, a little panicky,” he said, “but I think I kind of just stayed with that attitude, just take it one day at a time and don’t look too closely at that big picture, I guess. So yeah … made some pretty good progress with how I’m feeling and how I’m playing out there and just trying to be smart with the puck, and just rely on my instincts and my experience and slowly everything else will come as long as I keep chipping away, so just having fun with the process.

“It’s been challenging, but a lot of guys go through similar things, whether they go through surgeries and long rehabs and you’ve got to find ways to find your instincts and find your game and you get back to it.”

Blackhawks coach Jeremy Collilton said Friday that Toews has responded well.

“He’s already played three and he’ll get his fourth tomorrow, and it’s been a good test,” he said. “It’s been a hard camp and he hasn’t played 12 minutes. He’s had a decent load. We still have some days left before Wednesday and we’ll go from there.”

Toews has not played a regular-season game since Aug. 18, 2020, when he scored in a 4-3 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 5 of the Western Conference First Round. That defeat eliminated Chicago in the best-of-7 series. He scored 60 points (18 goals, 42 assists) in 70 regular-season games and nine points (five goals, four assists) in nine Stanley Cup Playoff games in 2019-20.

The No. 3 pick in the 2006 NHL Draft, Toews has scored 815 points (345 goals, 470 assists) in 943 regular-season NHL games and 119 points (45 goals, 74 assists) in 137 postseason games. He helped the Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup in 2010, 2013 and 2015. In 2010, he won the Conn Smythe Trophy, voted the most valuable player in the playoffs, after scoring 29 points (seven goals, 22 assists) in 22 games.

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