Blackhawks rookie Jonathan Toews said he was going to treat Wednesday night's game against the San Jose Sharks as "just another game."
But, clearly, it was much more than just Toews' NHL debut. It was the unveiling of the Hawks' future.Toews, the Hawks' top selection (third overall) in the 2006 draft, played his first game in the league, centering a line between 2007 top draft pick (first overall) Patrick Kane and Tuomo Ruutu, who was the team's ninth overall selection in 2001.
The line paid immediate dividends, but not big enough as the Sharks defeated the Hawks 2-1 at the United Center.
Toews scored his first career goal on his first NHL shot when he broke in on Sharks goaltender Evgeni Nabokov and buried the puck into the upper-right corner of the net to give the Hawks a 1-0 lead midway through the first period.
The Sharks tied it 1-1 on a goal by Milan Michalek while Toews was in the penalty box for the second time for hooking. With 3 minutes 31 seconds remaining in the third, the Sharks took the lead when Michalek again scored on the power play, tipping in a shot with Ruutu in the penalty box for hooking.
Nikolai Khabibulin was strong in goal for the Hawks, stopping 30 Sharks shots while the Hawks managed 17.
Toews missed the Hawks' regular season and home openers while recovering from a broken finger suffered when he was hit with a shot Sept. 19 during an exhibition against the Minnesota Wild.
"I haven't been thinking about it on the ice at all," Toews said of the finger. "Sometimes you come back from injuries it's on your mind a lot and you don't do things you normally do. But in my case it's not going to be a problem at all. I'm just going about my usual game like I usually do and if it means stepping in front of another shot to avoid a scoring chance, that's what I have to do.
The "Future" line of Ruutu, Toews and Kane clicked in training camp before Toews' injury, and Kane assisted on Ruutu's first goal of the season Saturday.
"I need to go out there and fit in," Toews said. "We just have to keep doing what we're doing and I think we'll be able to put points on the board. I just want to treat this as another game. Take care of business and do what I normally do on the ice."
Hawks coach Denis Savard has been looking forward to getting the line healthy and adding a potent second line of scorers with Toews in the middle.
"He's a kid who has lots of will," Savard said of Toews, 19. "You can't teach that. I know it's an exciting day for him. He needs to have fun, execute the details and execute the game plan. He'll be fine."
SHARKS 2, BLACKHAWKS 1
Toews scores, but not a victory
Late Sharks' goal spoils rookie's night
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