- Jesse Rogers, Chicago Cubs beat reporter
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CHICAGO -- Slowly, but surely, the Chicago Blackhawks are getting some of their walking wounded close to returning to the lineup.
Toews getting closer
Once again Jonathan Toews was able to practice with his teammates on Monday as he continues to recover from a concussion. He thinks he’s on the verge of being cleared for contact -- the final hurdle before playing again.
“I’m feeling pretty close to that, but before I tell you anything I have to discuss that with the training staff here,” Toews said Monday afternoon. “I think they’re trying to pull back the reins a little bit. These last few days I’ve been feeling good. When you get an inch you want to take a mile.”
Toews continues to give a more detailed look at his condition. Last week he talked about his original setback which kept him off the ice for several days. By the time he was back on it, there was nothing about his concussion that was inhibiting his daily life. It only potentially pops up during his workout time on the ice.
“When you’re really exerting your body, that’s when things become obvious,” he said. “It’s a lot of heaviness. A lot of difficulty focusing and moving your eyes. Those type of things. It’s different for everybody and so it’s difficult to explain when people want to know what you’re going through.”
Most of that is behind Toews, but the final steps have yet to be taken for his return.
“It was a good day,” Toews said. “I’m getting closer. It’s hard to give a timetable. A few days of feeling 100 percent, feeling nothing at all and not being worried about anything to know and feel ready. I’m still a ways off from being in game shape.”
Montador might play Tuesday
Hawks defenseman Steve Montador practiced with some contact on Monday and says he’s hopeful for a Tuesday return from his own concussion.
“This is the longest I’ve ever been out,” he said. “That’s as big a challenge as the injury itself, no matter what it is. I’m coming back into a fast time of the season. This is when teams are rolling and systems are down pat and all that. I’m excited about that challenge.”
Montador has missed the last 22 games but has been practicing with the team for a while. He participated in all drills on Monday and will travel to New Jersey, where the Hawks will decide if he plays Tuesday night.
“It took me a while to pack today because I forgot what it was like even though it was a one-game trip,” Montador joked. “It’s my turn to buy dinner. That’s probably one of the reasons I’m coming on the trip.”
The decision will probably come after Tuesday morning’s skate in New Jersey. If he plays, look for Sean O'Donnell to come back out of the lineup.
“I’m hopeful to play,” Montador said on Monday. “I can’t make that decision right now.”
Kruger back playing
Hawks center Marcus Kruger has had his own concussion problems and missed the last game as a precaution after leaving last Wednesday’s win over Vancouver.
“Kruger has done a real nice job as far as playing in that role,” coach Joel Quenneville said of the second-line center position.
Brendan Morrison started on the second line on Sunday, but was quickly replaced after ineffectiveness.
Emery out for Tuesday
Ray Emery won’t travel to New Jersey as he battles an undisclosed upper-body injury apparently suffered during Sunday’s game against Nashville. Emery missed time last week with a stomach ailment, but Quenneville indicated this was something different.
Stalberg, Brunette both playing
Viktor Stalberg and Andrew Brunette both missed practice on Monday, but Quenneville called them “maintenance days,” saying both would be ready for Tuesday’s game. Stalberg finished the game on Sunday but seemed to hurt his leg near the end of the contest.
Several injured Blackhawks are back on the ice or nearly ready to return.