Toews looking to lead Chicago Blackhawks again

 
 
Updated 7/18/2018 9:59 PM
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  • Chicago Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews waits for a face off against the Arizona Coyotes during the first period of an NHL hockey game Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018, in Glendale, Ariz. The Coyotes defeated the Blackhawks 6-1.

    Chicago Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews waits for a face off against the Arizona Coyotes during the first period of an NHL hockey game Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018, in Glendale, Ariz. The Coyotes defeated the Blackhawks 6-1.

When Jonathan Toews saw old buddy Vinnie Hinostroza skating toward him at MB Ice Arena on Wednesday night, the captain's face absolutely lit up and the two embraced in an excited, somewhat off-balance bear hug.

It was the first time Toews -- in town to play in the Chicago Pro Hockey League -- had seen his now ex-Blackhawks teammate since Hinostroza was traded to Arizona last week. The duo played together all night and created plenty of scoring opportunities in a wild, up-and-down affair in which Toews scored a goal in his team's 8-7 victory.

Hinostroza -- just like Ryan Hartman and Teuvo Teravainen -- is yet another young, promising winger dealt away by general manager Stan Bowman before they had 150 games in a Hawks sweater.

If Toews is frustrated by the exodus of young talent, though, he keeps those feelings close the vest.

"I always say the moves that are made off the ice in the off-season are not really in our control as players," Toews said. "But whether you're a veteran player or a young guy that went through that season last year, we're all looking at ways we can be better as individuals."

Certainly, that has to start with Toews, who celebrated his 10th anniversary as Hawks captain Wednesday. He knows he must score more than 20 or 21 goals, as he did the last two seasons. He also might need to re-evaluate how he handles his duties as a leader.

"Little did I know how much I had to learn and I still have to learn when it comes to being captain," said Toews, who plans to play in another CPHL game next Wednesday but will return home to Winnipeg for all of August. "Winning is the easy part. When you lose and things don't go as expected, that's when there's a lot of room for growth."

Even though the Hawks have made minor additions this off-season and seem to be falling further behind Winnipeg, Nashville, St. Louis and Colorado in the Central Division, Toews believes his team can return to the playoffs.

And once they're in, who knows what can happen? Just ask fans of the Vegas Golden Knights and Washington Capitals.

"If you sneak in it doesn't matter. You can go a long ways," Toews said. "For us, thinking of, 'OK, we're going to win a Cup this year. It sounds like a longshot.'

"But, as always, our No. 1 goal is getting back to the playoffs and being ready to hit our stride when we get there."

Toews laughed when asked how much playoff hockey he watched, saying "more than usual." And at one point, he thought about how amazing it was the Hawks had reached the playoffs for nine straight seasons.

"Obviously, there's no satisfaction there, but you understand it's not the worst thing to stop and smell the roses and appreciate what you've been able to experience," Toews said. "Because failing to get to the playoffs makes you realize how difficult it really is and maybe it's something you took for granted.

"But watching more hockey this spring is something that was really motivating and inspiring and exciting to want to get back to that level again.

"You dream of playing in the NHL, but at the end of the day, you want to play playoff hockey. That's what it's all about."

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