Jonathan Toews will make his official return to the lineup on Saturday when the Blackhawks host the New Jersey Devils at the United Center, head coach Luke Richardson announced after practice on Friday.
Toews has been out since Jan. 28 after dealing with symptoms of Long COVID and Chronic Immune Response Syndrome. The Blackhawks are 9-16-2 in the 27 games he's missed over that stretch.
"He said he’s all good today, feels really good and he’s like, 'Well, it’s not going to be perfect, it might be ugly,'" Richardson said. "I said we’re a little bit ugly right now, so you’ll fit right now. He’ll help us in the faceoff circle and just having the captain around will be a good lift for the team and I hope for him, too. He feels a lot better, not perfect but better. So we’ll go from there."
Toews has been skating on his own "on and off" since the five-game road trip but didn't rejoin the team for his first real practice until Friday, although he did participate in two morning skates. It's a pretty quick turnaround for Toews, who admitted on Tuesday that expectations should be tempered.
"I wouldn't say to expect much," Toews said. "But I'm just going to try and go out there and play with energy and have some fun."
The main motivation to return earlier than expected is probably because this very well could be the final few times he puts on a Blackhawks sweater. It means just as much to Toews as it does to the fans, who would love an opportunity to see No. 19 in red for perhaps the last time.
"Regardless of what happens in the future this summer, it's definitely on my mind that this could be my last few weeks here in Chicago as a Blackhawk," Toews said on Tuesday. "And so that's definitely very important for me to just go out there and enjoy the game and just kind of soak it in and just really appreciate everything I've been able to be a part of here in Chicago and show my appreciation to the fans as well."