Blackhawks News

Chicago Blackhawks: Toews Questionable; McNeill Sent Down

By Colin Likas
Jan 26, 2016; Raleigh, NC, USA; Chicago Blackhawks forward Jonathan Toews (19) reacts during the game against the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena. The Carolina Hurricanes defeated the Chicago Blackhawks 5-0. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 26, 2016; Raleigh, NC, USA; Chicago Blackhawks forward Jonathan Toews (19) reacts during the game against the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena. The Carolina Hurricanes defeated the Chicago Blackhawks 5-0. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Chicago Blackhawks have officially hit their All-Star break following last night’s 5-0 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes. There isn’t much to take away from that game as it pertains to the Blackhawks’ season at large; it was an outing against a mediocre team right before a much-needed break that the Blackhawks (minus the goaltenders) probably weren’t going to get up for. That, coupled with general tiredness at this point in the season and the Hurricanes receiving their only national telecast of the season, led to the result.

But that doesn’t mean there wasn’t some news to come out of last night’s action. The most-noteworthy happening was captain Jonathan Toews missing the third period against the Canes due to what color commentator Ed Olczyk called “a bug.” Toews was also first off the ice at the morning skate Tuesday, so it may’ve just been better if he hadn’t faced Carolina at all.

Of course, this brings up concerns about Toews heading to the All-Star Game this weekend, as he and Kane won’t get the rest they badly need in the name of promoting the game we love. This has led to speculation:

I have to believe Friedman, a very knowledgeable source in the hockey world, is aware Toews missing that third period had to do with illness and not injury, but this is still worth talking about. Ultimately, the All-Star Game is still a relatively pointless affair, and while Toews is a recognizable face in the league and one of its more-talented players, how much is the league losing not having him in the exhibition? I ask that question because we know Toews is not going to voluntarily back out of anything related to the NHL — the league would have to give him a blessing, of sorts, for Toews to be comfortable with missing the ASG.

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Toews is known as Captain Serious, and he’s not a guy who’s going to be incredibly flashy or give you groundbreaking soundbites. Those tasks can be saved for his teammate an fellow All-Star Patrick Kane. It would certainly benefit Toews and the Blackhawks to have the captain skip the game, and I don’t know that the league would be hurting for a fair replacement in the loaded Central Division.

As the Chicago-Sun Times’ Mark Lazerus helpfully, and frighteningly, pointed out, Toews has participated in a crazy 322 games since the start of the lockout-shortened 2013 season, behind only teammate defensemen Niklas Hjalmarsson (327) and Brent Seabrook (326). To say the guy could use a legitimate break — and one which doesn’t involve the Blackhawks on an early golf course trip — is an understatement. The illness, which is probably more than a common cold if it kept Toews out of part of a hockey game, is a solid cover. Besides, who wants to get all the other star players sick in Nashville?

There was another piece of news that quietly slid through after the Carolina game, too. Mark McNeill, who made his league debut against the Canes, was quickly sent back to Rockford afterward.

McNeill was given 12:44 of ice time, much of it alongside Dennis Rasmussen and Richard Panik, and he recorded three hits and a takeaway. He also saw 55 seconds on powerplay time with the game well out of reach.

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McNeill’s NHL debut won’t be remembered for much, as this was a tough game to get him going on. Not because of the opponent, but because the Blackhawks as a group were ready to be done with the game from puck drop on. McNeill showed some push at times to try and get things going with his linemates, but it didn’t amount to much of anything, and so he’ll go back to Rockford for the break. There is a chance he could come back to the Blackhawks next week, as the roster is once again at 22 players, but that remains to be seen.

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