Quenneville believes Jonathan Toews is cleared for contact


Finally some good news for the Chicago Blackhawks regarding Jonathan Toews.

Tracey Myers of CSNChicago.com reports Hawks coach Joel Quenneville believes Toews has been cleared for contact. While the Blackhawks are on the road in Nashville, Toews stayed back in Chicago to do more skating.

Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane tells Myers he can’t wait for the team to clinch a playoff spot and be fully loaded again.

“It’s going to be nice, for sure, when we do clinch a spot,” Patrick Kane said. “It’ll be nice when that happens, and even nicer tonight knowing we have some of our best players hopefully coming back in the net few games; and we can keep getting better as a team and not worry about clinching a spot.”

The Blackhawks have done just fine without Toews, but getting their best centerman back from a concussion will be a huge lift for the team. With Toews out, the Blackhawks have had to rely heavier on Dave Bolland and occasionally Marcus Kruger and Brendan Morrison as well. There have been spurts of solid play from them, when they’re not hurt, but they don’t compare with Toews.

Just what the Western Conference playoffs needed, another solid team getting healthy.

Nicklas Backstrom to travel with Caps to Boston; return imminent? (Update: Nope)

After the big news about how Nicklas Backstrom has put the worst behind him in his recovery from a concussion, he’s cleared another big step.

CSNWashington.com’s Chuck Gormley reports Backstrom will join the Caps on their trip to Boston to face the Bruins on Thursday night. Curious part of this is that the Caps’ “road trip” is just a one-game jaunt to Beantown.

Considering that Backstrom is now practicing with the team and the fact that the Capitals are now trailing the Sabres in the chase for the playoffs, getting Backstrom back sooner than later would give the team a major weapon to help them get back into eighth in the East.

Caps GM George McPhee said yesterday that it was up to Backstrom when he’s ready to come back and hitting the road with the team for a one game trip sure makes it seem like he’ll be ready to go against the Bruins. After all, why have him travel for one game when the Caps will back at home on Saturday night to play Montreal.

UPDATE (11:47 a.m.): Gormley reports coach Dale Hunter says Backstrom will not play against Boston.

Already scary Blues get more frightening: Alex Steen is off IR


The Blues were already due to get a healthy Kris Russell back tonight but their forward unit will have an important player coming back to it as well.

The Blues have activated scoring winger Alex Steen off of injured reserve and according to Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, he’ll be back in the lineup tonight as the Blues face the Coyotes.

Steen missed the last 39 games with a concussion and before going out of the lineup, he was one of St. Louis’ top scorers. Now he comes back to a team that’s in the lead for home ice throughout the Western Conference playoffs and with a shot at the Presidents’ Trophy as well.

Steen’s 13 goals and 11 assists will be a great addition to a team that could use more offense to go with their suffocating defense and stellar goaltending. With the Blues getting healthier (and scarier) as the season winds down, teams in the West know well enough that they’ll be very tough team to deal with in the postseason.

Jonathan Toews is back at practice and feeling optimistic

While the Blackhawks are back in the thick of things in the race for home ice in the first round of the playoffs, they got some great news today.

Captain Jonathan Toews not only skated for the fifth day in a row, but as CSNChicago.com’s Tracey Myers reports, Toews also practiced with the team. As Toews tells Myers, dealing with a concussion hasn’t been the easiest thing for him to do.

“I was confident a week in that it wouldn’t take much longer. It sucks that it’s taken this long but I feel this is it,” said Toews. “Mentally I’m positive and telling myself that we’ll get through this. I’m not going to let the setbacks that have happened weigh me down.”

Toews says he’s hopeful that he’ll play before the regular season is over with. Getting a game or two in before the start of the postseason would help keep him from being rusty when the games matter the most. With Duncan Keith out of action for the next five games, going without those two players will make the race for home ice that much harder.

Update: Here’s video from CSNChicago.com of Toews talking about all he’s doing to get back to action.

Good news in Washington: Nicklas Backstrom cleared to practice


Business is about to pick up in the nation’s capital.

The Capitals got a surprise at this morning’s practice when they got word Nicklas Backstrom was cleared to participate fully with no restrictions, as reported by Chuck Gormley of CSNWashington.com. With the season coming to an end in just a couple weeks and the playoff push going hard in Washington, getting the team’s best playmaker back to close out the year would give them a huge advantage.

Backstrom has been out of action since early January after taking an elbow to the face courtesy of then Flames forward Rene Bourque. Curiously enough, Bourque and his current team, Montreal, play in Washington on March 31. With how Backstrom has progressed in his concussion recovery, it’s not outside the realm of possibility he makes his comeback by then.

For a season that’s had a lot of drama already, Backstrom returning against the player that knocked him out would amp things up a bit in the middle of a playoff push.