It was another good sign. Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews was able to crack a smile Friday when speaking for the first time and in detail about the concussion that has kept him out the lineup for weeks.
Toews took part in the Hawks' morning skate before their game Friday night against the New York Rangers. He also stayed out on the ice when it concluded for an extended practice. It was the second day in a row he skated. The next step in his recovery process is seeing how he handles contact.
"I feel pretty good," said Toews, who will miss his ninth game in a row. "I feel like I've been off the nice doing nothing for three weeks, but considering that, the last two days on the ice, I'm a lot better than I thought I would be. You can be positive about that."
Toews said he felt symptoms after playing Feb. 19 against the St. Louis Blues. But Toews said the symptoms emerged before that, although he can only say he started feeling them during the Hawks' extensive nine-game road trip.
"You come out of a game and you kind feel those symptoms," Toews said. "You don't want to admit to yourself what it might be and you kind of keeping going a little bit. So there is not a clear [time] when it might have happened.
"I think the toughest thing was kind of coming to grips with it and saying that it was something I had to deal with and I couldn't keep playing with. And here I am three weeks later almost still kind of hanging in there and getting better every day."
"Not at all," Toews said. "A lot of people kind of want to tie that in there with this injury. But I guess as they say, 'When it rains, it pours.' It was kind of a rough week, when you throw that in there with it. It wasn't too much fun."
What led to the crash?
"I was just more concerned with the traffic that was coming down the one way and completely didn't see the obstacle that was in front of me," Toews said. "It was one of those embarrassing things where I didn't want to get out of my car for a long time.
"It was around 9 o'clock in the morning and two hours later I'm at home, getting text messages from friends back home asking if I'm all right. I couldn't believe how fast it got around. It was a crazy day dealing with everything that was going on around it, but the good thing was the only damage was to my car. We'll live with that."
Toews said the onus is on him to be honest with himself with how he's feeling and not make the mistake of returning too soon. He's spoken with defensemen Niklas Hjalmarsson and Steve Montador, who are also battling concussions, and exchanged texts with Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby, who has publicly battled with a concussion for months.
Toews suffered a concussion two seasons ago on a hit by defenseman Willie Mitchell, who was with the Vancouver Canucks at the time.
"I thought a week and a half ago that I'd be playing right now," Toews said. "I am back on the ice and I feel good out there and I feel like, 'Hey I should be playing in a couple of days.' But no one else can tell me how I feel. It's up to me to be honest with myself and be smart about it. You learn to play through so many things, but this might be the one thing that might not be an intelligent thing to do."