Jonathan Toews

It’s official: Jonathan Toews back in Chicago lineup for Game 1


As per the Blackhawks Twitter account, team captain Jonathan Toews will return to the lineup tonight for Game 1 of Chicago’s opening-round playoff series with Phoenix.

It’s huge news for the Blackhawks and sure to be a massive momentum swing for the Western Conference’s No. 6 seed. Toews had missed the final 22 games of the regular season with a concussion but had been practicing with the team for weeks and, most recently, skated on a new-look top line with Marian Hossa and Patrick Kane.

“The upside of that line is going to be high end,” head coach Joel Quenneville told CSN Chicago. “We should have puck possession and a lot of ability.”

Kane seemed equally excited about the line’s potential.

“This is a combination we’ve never really tried before, maybe a couple times throughout seasons and games we were behind or when Hossa first came back a couple years ago,” he said. “It’ll be different but we just have to work hard, get the puck in their end and work some magic down there.

“It’s going to be fun to play with those guys.”

Prior to getting hurt, Toews was in the midst of an impressive campaign. He had 29G-28A-57PTS through 59 games and was seen by many as a legit Hart Trophy candidate.

Toews was also a point-a-game player against the Coyotes this season, recording 3G-1A-4PTS in four regular season contests. For more on how his return will impact this series, here are NHL on NBC analysts Mike Milbury and Keith Jones discussing the “Captain Serious” factor:

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There’s ‘a real positive vibe’ in Buffalo, where Eichel will make NHL debut tonight

Connor McDavid
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Jack Eichel didn’t disappoint in the preseason, finishing with six points in four games, including two shorthanded goals.

Tonight in Buffalo, his NHL career will start for real when the Sabres host the Ottawa Senators in regular-season action.

“It’s something I’ve dreamed of my whole life, stepping foot on that ice and making the NHL,” Eichel said, per “It’s kind of been a whirlwind, but you’re finally playing hockey for a living and everything you’ve done your whole life is to get to this point. It’s pretty special.”

The 18-year-old’s debut was front-page news this morning in Buffalo, where the Sabres have been among the NHL’s worst teams since last making the playoffs in 2010-11.

Eichel front page

Granted, even with the additions of Eichel, Ryan O'Reilly, Evander Kane, Robin Lehner and Cody Franson, expectations for 2015-16 remain modest for the new-look Sabres. Certainly, a spot in the playoffs would count as a surprise.

But for the fans of a team that’s barely possessed the puck the past couple of years, it’s night and day.

“People are excited,” GM Tim Murray said earlier this week. “It’s great. They think we’ve improved, and there’s a real positive vibe, I believe.

“That’s what I said to our coaches, ‘I want everybody to be positive. I’m the only guy in the organization allowed to be negative.’ That’s the way I wanted it. If I’m the most negative guy in the city about the team, that’s pretty good.”

Sutter: Kings weren’t ‘interested’ in checking the Sharks

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Lost in the various controversies (see here and here) of last night’s game in Los Angeles was a pretty dismal performance by the Kings, a team that should’ve been especially motivated to start the season after missing the playoffs last year.

The Kings were hammered, 5-1, by the visiting Sharks. They were outshot, 32-20.

“If you don’t check, you don’t have the puck enough,” said Kings head coach Darryl Sutter. “If you don’t have the puck enough, you can’t score.”

“We were pretty sloppy. Sloppy on our rushes, sloppy in our D-zone,” said forward Dustin Brown. “That’s probably most of it, but the other part is compete – in the corners and making hard plays coming out of our zone, going in. We didn’t play very well.”

Obviously, much credit has to go to the Sharks. Like the Kings, they missed the playoffs last year and came into 2015-16 looking for redemption. But the Sharks haven’t won two Stanley Cups in the last four years, and they weren’t the home team.

“Gotta check,” said Sutter. “You don’t check, you can’t score. We had a lot of guys, especially top guys that weren’t interested in that part of the game.”

The Kings get a visit from the Arizona Coyotes on Friday. If they don’t dominate that team…