Tough times for Hawks

KEN WIEBE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:25 AM ET

Though he is doing his best to keep a positive outlook, being on the shelf is making Jonathan Toews feel helpless.

Toews, the 19-year-old rookie phenom from Winnipeg, remains sidelined with a knee sprain as the Chicago Blackhawks head out for a pivotal seven-game road trip which could have a big impact on whether or not the young up-and-comers can qualify for the Stanley Cup playoffs.

When reached in the Windy City yesterday, Toews confessed he is itching to return to action.

"You look at this injury and you can get pretty negative pretty easily, but then again it's one of those things that happens once in a while," said Toews, who suffered the injury in the first period of a 9-2 loss to the Los Angeles Kings back on Jan. 1. "It's unfortunate, but I'm going to work through this."

Toews has been working hard in the gym and is hopeful he could return to the ice as early as today. There is no official timeline for his return, though it's been well documented head coach Denis Savard and general manager Dale Tallon don't want to rush Toews back too early.

"I feel like I could be back immediately, but they want to be cautious," said Toews, the third overall pick in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft. "I'm trying to make the best of my situation and I'm getting a lot stronger."

The season started with so much promise for the Blackhawks, but they've slipped to 23-23-4, which is good for last spot in the Central Division and second last in the Western Conference.

Seeing the losses pile up, while not being able to do anything about it, has been painful for Toews.

"It's pretty tough to swallow," he explained. "Hopefully we can survive this stretch and then push toward the playoffs. When I get back, I'm going to give it everything I've got every single night. We've got a lot of work ahead of us."

With 15 goals and 32 points in 36 games before the injury, Toews was looking like a good bet to be chosen to compete in the YoungStars competition as part of the NHL All-star festivities in Atlanta last weekend.

"That would have been cool," said Toews. "I hope to be part of that whole experience and it's a dream to play in an All-star game some day."

Instead of being among the NHL's best, Toews watched the game on TV and took in a pair of University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux games at Ralph Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks, N.D.

"It was awesome to see the guys and see how they're doing," said Toews, who turned pro after his sophomore season with the Fighting Sioux. "It was neat to be there."

Toews was also thrilled to be named Manitoba male athlete of the year on Sunday night by the Manitoba Sports Writers and Sportscasters Association.

"It's pretty awesome," said Toews. "There were some established players up for that award and I'm just a young kid who is trying to live the life and accomplish his dream. I've been doing that this year. It's been a long road to get there. It's a good feeling when you win awards like this. It means a lot and it's a huge compliment when things like that happen."

When asked if he's taken much time to try and soak up what he accomplished in 2007, Toews said it's helped him during some of the tough times.

"I've had a couple of bad games this year and I've driven back home a little depressed with how I've played," said Toews. "Then I think about it for a second and realize how lucky I've been the last little while."


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