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Hawks expect Jonathan Toews to play in Game 6

Johnny Boychuk Jonathan Toews

Johnny Boychuk, Jonathan Toews

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Updated: July 25, 2013 6:38AM



BOSTON — Somehow, someway, it always ends up being about Jonathan Toews.

Though some of his teammates might not admit it, one of the biggest differences between the playoff runs of 2013 and 2010 — a popular subject Sunday — is that they haven’t had to hear day after day about how great Toews is this time.

The infatuation with the greatness of Toews reached a peak in the 2010 postseason when the Blackhawks’ captain was in the midst of coming up with 25 points during a 13-game stretch in which he had at least one point in every game on his way to winning the Conn Smythe Trophy. On a team of stars, he was hailed daily as the star — to a sometimes annoying degree.

Not so this year. Or not so much. Toews had one goal and nine points in the Hawks’ first 20 playoff games. Not even the Selke Trophy could obscure the fact that Toews had scored only one playoff goal. In retrospect, Toews’ spate of frustration against the Red Wings — three penalties in a six-minute stretch in a Game 3 loss — was a breath of fresh air. The best evidence yet of Toews’ rumored fallibility.

But with the Hawks one step from clinching a second Cup in four years, almost inevitably the focus has shifted squarely on Toews. He scored a goal in the Hawks’ 6-5 overtime victory in Game 4 and had two assists in the Hawks’ 3-1 victory in Game 5 that gave them a 3-2 series lead heading into Game 6 on Monday.

And now the question is: Will he play? Toews suffered an upper-body injury in Game 5, presumably when he was checked hard to the back of the neck by the Bruins’ Johnny Boychuk, and did not play in the third period.

The news Sunday was positive. While stranger things have happened — Marian Hossa out/Ben Smith in for Game 3 of the Final comes to mind — the Hawks expect Toews to play in Game 6.

‘‘[Toews] is doing much better,’’ coach Joel Quenneville said after the team arrived at TD Garden without skating. ‘‘He’s progressed. We’re optimistic that he might be playing [Monday] night.’’

So the questions now aren’t about how great Toews is, but how valuable he is. Can you win without him?

‘‘Obviously we want Toews to play,’’ forward Patrick Sharp said, ‘‘but if he’s not [there], we have to find a way to get it done either way.’’

And even if he’s not 100 percent, how much does it help just to have him on the ice as a leader?

‘‘Well, like you said, he’s our leader,’’ defenseman Johnny Oduya said. ‘‘He’s one of those guys. You [see] him play just as much as I do, and when he’s full speed, he gives everything he’s got every game. That’s something that is tough to replace.’’

That Toews appears ready to return took the edge off the debate of whether Boychuk’s hit — a two-fisted shiver that was supposed to be about shoulder high but ended up smacking Toews on the back of his neck and head — was legal. The NHL said it was, deciding against a disciplinary hearing.

‘‘There wasn’t a penalty, and that was one of those hits in a tight area in front of the net,’‘ Quenneville said, sounding like he was trying very hard not to say what he really felt. ‘‘You can be vulnerable in that area [to] a big hit. The first part of contact you could talk about, but I’m not going to go there.’’



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