GLENDALE, ARIZ — In the name of all that's good about hockey, it's probably for the best for the Blackhawks that the playoffs are starting Thursday.
If for no other reason than to put an end to the “will he or won't he” soap opera that has surrounded Jonathan Toews and his anticipated return to the ice after missing 22 games with a concussion.
After practicing again Wednesday in Glendale and proclaiming himself symptom free on the ice, it's a good bet Toews “will” be in the lineup for Game 1 against Phoenix.
In fact, the Hawks captain said he'd be surprised if he wasn't.
“Yeah,” Toews said. “But again, it's just the goal we've set for ourselves. The training staff and our (doctors), we're going to make that decision Thursday and kind of stick with that program.”
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville sounded as positive as ever when discussing the possiblitlity of Toews centering the top line alongside Marian Hossa and Patrick Kane.
“We're targeting (Thursday); we're hopeful that he'll be playing,” Quenneville said. “That line looks fine together.
“For sure Thursday we'll clarify whether he's playing or not. But we're optimistic.”
Factoring in the factors ... or not:
Two things going against the Hawks as they prepare for Game 1 on the road in Phoenix are that they were just a .500 team on the road and less than a .500 team (1-2-1) against the Coyotes.
“I don't think you really factor any of that stuff into it once the playoffs start,” defenseman Brent Seabrook said.
And as for home ice?
“We've started series on the road before and you've just got to be prepared to play how you play,” Seabrook said. “You play games in both buildings, so it's not really that big of a worry for us. We just have to worry about playing hard and trying to get off to a good start.”
Rookies Andrew Shaw and Brandon Bollig will get their first taste of Stanley Cup playoff hockey Thursday.
Coach Joel Quenneville knows his young guns will be pumped. The trick, though, is to keep them from getting too pumped.
“We had meetings everyday over the course of the week,” Quenneville said. “I think that with talk you can only say so much, and then it's time to play.
“The guys are ready, they're excited, they're enthused. We want to make sure that they're not too excited out there.”
He said it:
“He was one of the all-time greatest competitors ever. Tippy was relentless. He'd do anything for your team. You had to admire with his size the way he competed. He left it out on the rink.”
— Joel Quenneville on his friend, former teammate and current head coach of the Coyotes, Dave Tippett.Copyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.