Toews to debut in Minny

KEN WIEBE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 1:48 PM ET

Though he's not taking anything for granted in the battle to earn a spot on the Chicago Blackhawks, Jonathan Toews is eagerly anticipating his NHL debut.

And if all goes according to plan, the Winnipegger will be lacing up the blades for the team that selected him third overall in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft on Oct. 4 at the Excel Energy Center against the Minnesota Wild.

"We had our (WCHA) conference championship there the past two years," Toews, who spent the past two seasons with the University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux, said yesterday. "We won my freshman year and we lost in the final to Minnesota this year. It was crazy, it was sold out, 20,000 people and pretty much all Gopher fans. It was ridiculous."

Toews can expect a similar atmosphere as the Wild fans are among the most passionate in the NHL and the game is certain to be another sellout -- though this time there may be a few more friends and family members making the trek down from Manitoba.

The Blackhawks will also travel to Toronto Oct. 20 to face the Maple Leafs and to Montreal Jan. 8 to take on the Canadiens this season.

"I have family out east who would love to come out to see that game," said Toews.

ROOKIE CAMP

Training camp won't open until September, but Toews got a look at some of his prospective teammates last week as the Blackhawks held a rookie camp at the United Center.

Toews found himself skating alongside Patrick Kane, the sniper from the London Knights of the OHL, who was chosen first overall in the NHL Entry Draft last month.

"We played really good together actually," said Toews, who had Dan Bertram and Scott McCulloch rotating on the left side. "It was a little tough at first, I haven't skated that much. After that I got back into the groove of things."

During the camp, Blackhawks head coach Denis Savard likened Toews' game to that of Peter Forsberg.

"I don't want to compare him to anybody yet, but he's similar to a player who has been around a long time and been one of the greatest, and that's [Peter] Forsberg," Savard told the Blackhawks official website. "I'm not saying he's there, but he's that kind of complete player that Forsberg is."

Toews said the comments caught him off guard a little bit, but he's pumped about the buzz that is building around the Blackhawks team.

"They had a lot of people come out to watch. It just seemed like people are kind of excited about this year," said Toews, who won gold medals with Canada's world junior and world senior championship teams in 2007.


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