Toews up in the air

PAUL FRIESEN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:12 AM ET

Jonathan Toews will have quite the welcoming party out for his team's first NHL game at the Twin Cities tomorrow night.

His parents are making the trip from Winnipeg, while his brother, David, who plays at Toews' old high school, Shattuck-St. Mary's in nearby Faribault, Minn., also plans to make the drive to St. Paul's, along with lots of old friends from the area.

But the big question is, will the highly touted rookie be playing in the Chicago Blackhawks season opener against the Minnesota Wild?

"I'm not too sure," Toews said via cellphone while stuck in Chicago traffic yesterday afternoon. "We'll see how it feels (tomorrow)."

Toews suffered a broken finger on his right hand two games into the pre-season, and was forced to miss the Blackhawks last six exhibitions.

A first-round draft choice, third overall, who is expected to help turn the Hawks around this season, the 19-year-old is antsy to get into the lineup. But he also doesn't want to rush what is expected to a be a long, productive career.

"I feel like I can play right now," he said. "But it's an 82-game season, and I don't want to screw around with it. If I don't take care of it now, it could nag me."

A left-handed shooter known most for his three-goal shootout performance in leading Canada to a gold medal in the 2006 World Junior Championship, Toews broke the finger on his right, or top, hand.

The fact the Blackhawks have kept him on their roster, anyway, says everything about how much faith they have in his being ready to play in the NHL.

"It's a pretty good feeling," Toews said. "But it's frustrating that I can't go out there and play. I want to get in the swing of things. I don't like watching games from up in the press box."

The presence of Toews -- a two-time world junior champ who also helped Canada win gold at the world men's championship last spring -- along with fellow first-rounders Patrick Kane and Jack Skille, have created a buzz about the Hawks future.

"The way they're writing about us in the paper every day, everybody's pretty excited." Toews said.

Having his family in the Twin Cities tomorrow could make for quite a memorable pro debut.

"That's why I don't want to disappoint," he said. "It would be special for me to have my little bro at my first game."


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