NHL notes: Toews just days away

The Chicago Blackhawks Jonathan Toews says he hopes to play next week. (AL CHAREST/QMI AGENCY)

The Chicago Blackhawks Jonathan Toews says he hopes to play next week. (AL CHAREST/QMI AGENCY)

QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 8:03 PM ET

Jonathan Toews believes he is close to returning to the Chicago Blackhawks lineup from a concussion -- and this time he is serious.

The Chicago Blackhawks captain hopes to be cleared for contact in the next day or two and hopes to play in a game next week. He sat out his 18th consecutive game Thursday night against St. Louis.

It's not the first time the star centre has felt healthy during this almost six-week recovery.

"Last time (about two weeks ago) ... I was feeling I was close to being able to play (but) I took a setback," Toews told the Chicago Tribune. "This time around, I feel like there's nothing I can do that's going to (create an obstacle). I've been pushing myself harder and harder every day. And I feel good. I feel confident. So like I said, any day now, I should be ready to go."

PREDS WELCOME BACK ERAT

Martin Erat, who has missed two games with an upper-body injury, practised Thursday with the Nashville Predators and expects to be in the lineup Friday night at Detroit.

The game against the Red Wings is a likely preview of a Western Conference first-round playoff matchup.

Erat leads the Preds with 57 points (18 goals) in 67 games this season. Forward Jordin Tootoo and defenceman Roman Josi are also set to return.

"This is perfect timing to get those guys back," Nashville coach Barry Trotz told the Tennessean. "Marty has played well all year and Josi has played a good number of games."

WINGS HEALTHIER, TOO

Jimmy Howard, out since March 19 with a recurring groin injury, might be back in the Detroit Red Wings net Friday night against Nashville.

Mike Babcock had pencilled in backup Ty Conklin to make the start, but on Thursday the Wings coach seemed to be having second thoughts, according to the Detroit Free Press.

The winner of Friday's game would gain an edge on earning home-ice advantage in the first round. As a result, Howard would seem the best option for Detroit.

"I'm a big believer in having a guy ready before he get's into a situation like this," Babcock said after practice Thursday.

Babcock said he would talk with goalie coach Jim Bedard and make a decision Friday morning.

ISLES ACTIVATE GRAHAME

The New York Islanders have signed journeyman goaltender John Grahame for the remainder of the season.

Grahame, 36, has not played in the NHL since the 2007-08 season with Carolina.

He has been the goaltending coach for the Sioux City Musketeers of the USHL this season, and hasn't seen action in net since last year with the AHL's Lake Erie Monsters.

The Islanders could be without goaltender Evgeni Nabokov heading into the final five games of the season. Nabokov, suffered a lower-body injury Tuesday against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

BRIEFLY

The St. Louis Blues have activated forward Matt D'Agostini from injured reserve. D'Agostini had missed 25 games after suffering a concussion Feb. 7 in Ottawa ... The comeback from an upper-body injury was short-lived for Chicago Blackhawks defenceman Steve Montador. The 32-year-old Montador, who'd missed the previous 22 games, was reinjured Tuesday night in New Jersey when his head collided with Devils defenceman Mark Fayne ... Spencer Abbott, Jack Connolly and Austin Smith were announced Thursday as the finalists for the 2012 Hobey Baker Memorial Award. Abbott, a forward from Maine, signed this week with the Toronto Maple Leafs; Connolly, a Minnesota-Duluth forward, is a free agent; Smith, a Colgate forward, has signed with the Dallas Stars.


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