Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews was winded. His lungs were burning and sweat poured from his face after he skated hard for the third day in a row as he recovers from a concussion.
"You're supposed to feel better every day," Toews said after practice Saturday at Johnny's IceHouse West. "People talk about setbacks, but I don't feel like I've really had any so that's a good thing. It's just the lungs that hurt a little bit. ... But that will come too.
"I think I've been doing a great job of just going home and just locking it down and taking care of myself after these workouts in the morning. I'll continue to have that routine and hopefully things keep going the same way."
Toews still hasn't been cleared for contact, which will be the next step in the process.
"That's the real way of knowing I think," Toews said. "It's when you're turning around in the corner and you've got a guy on you. You're spinning around and somebody hits you. Just those things that kind of move you really fast.
"When you're doing full drills and skating on the ice, you get your heart rate up. Eventually, you can master that where the symptoms go away. But [contact] will be the real test. We'll see when the time is for that."
Toews, though, has looked at dates and games for his return. A week ago, he had Sunday's matchup against the Los Angeles Kings in mind, but he'll miss his 10th game in a row.
Now, Toews is looking at Tuesday against the St. Louis Blues. But he stressed he's not going to rush himself back.
"I'd love to be in on Tuesday, but again, I just have to focus on this afternoon and getting a good rest tonight and worrying about those little things right now, the way I have been, just taking it one step at a time," Toews said. "Hopefully, it's going to be sooner than later at his point."
Is Tuesday a realistic option?
"I think so. I keep telling myself that," Toews said. "If you can shoot for a date like that, even if it's early, obviously you feel like you're improving and you're making strides and notice a difference. This past week I was hoping for Sunday and now I realize that's not going to happen. We'll shoot for [Tuesday].
"But again, I'm going to tell you guys [the media] the same thing every day. I'll just take it day by day and it what happens."