They're back: Toews, Kane ready to go
If they wanted to, there was enough room on the ice at Johnny's IceHouse to roll out a couple of cars and begin filming another commercial featuring Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews.
That's how deserted the place was Monday as the two Blackhawks stars, along with goalies Corey Crawford and Antti Raanta and a handful of coaches got in a light workout.
Toews and Kane have gotten used to the lonely life of injury rehab in the NHL the past few weeks, but all that is about to change when the full squad gathers for practice Tuesday. And for the dynamic duo, it can't happen soon enough.
"Tomorrow I'll be out there with the boys, back to the usual routine. It's kind of nice," said Toews, who missed the final six games of the regular season with the dreaded upper-body injury. "It's not fun to be on your own program for a couple of weeks. It's one of the downsides."
Kane (knee) missed twice as many games at the end of the season as Toews did, so imagine how eager he is to get back at it against the Blues beginning Thursday night.
"I'm excited to get things going," he said. "I've watched a lot of hockey lately, so it's going to be nice to play in some games."
"I'm looking forward to being back."
When his two stars were on the shelf, coach Joel Quenneville said repeatedly that he expected both to be back and "100 percent" heading into the playoffs, and it appears that's right about where they are.
"I feel pretty good," Kane said. "I've had some time to rest my injury, the right amount of time, and with anything you want to make sure you're feeling good coming back. I think that's where I'm at right now."
Toews pronounced himself fit as well, quite a departure from what he felt in the immediate aftermath of the huge hit he took from Pittsburgh's Brooks Orpik that knocked him out of action a few weeks back.
"There was a moment there right after it happened in Pittsburgh where we weren't quite sure," Toews said. "I think for the most part, with the level of pain I was dealing with, I knew it wasn't going to be a long-term thing.
"I don't think there was too much to worry about there. It was just going to be a week or two weeks. Slowly battle and get over it and be ready for the playoffs."
Which is where Toews thinks he's at right now.
"I don't feel like I lost anything," he said. "It was only a short while to be away from playing the games. I think for anyone who's been playing right until the end of the season, it's going to be an adjustment with the speed of the playoffs, so everyone's going to have to step it up a little bit."
Both will be stepping right into the fire against a physical St. Louis team, which will no doubt dedicate plenty of time trying to physically reacquaint themselves with Kane and Toews in this series.
"I've been dealing with it since I've been a young kid," Kane said. "Whether it's been teams targeting you or playing against physical players, that's the way a hockey game is played. You expect it to be physical."
"They're a team that loves to play physical against us, and we've got to expect that," Toews said. "There's no reason why we can't return that as well. We'll be ready to bring that type of effort.
"It's going to be a tough game, a tough atmosphere to be a part of starting out in St. Louis. We'll be ready for it."
That attitude and what he has seen lately from his two big guns on the ice has Quenneville feeling pretty good as the Hawks prepare to begin their defense of the Cup.
"It's definitely encouraging how good they've been skating, how good they feel," Quenneville said. "We know the importance of what they bring to our team.
"Having these guys healthy is exciting."