There aren’t many places where Jonathan Toews gets overshadowed. He’s a bona fide NHL star at age 25, a legend in the making with Stanley Cup rings and Olympic medals. People buy tickets just to see him play.
But not in Buffalo. He’s just the other Chicago player around here.
Toews and the Blackhawks will be in First Niagara Center today for the first time since October 2010. As always, the focus will be Chicago winger and South Buffalo native Patrick Kane. It’s an event every time he comes home.
Toews, though, is the brighter star lately. The captain won his second Olympic gold with Canada last month. He has five goals in the last three games while Chicago fights with St. Louis and Colorado for first place in the Central Division.
“I’m getting chances, and I feel confident when I get the puck,” Toews said in Chicago. “Whether I’m scoring or not, I feel like I’m generating a lot of chances, finding ways to stay patient with the puck and keep my feet moving with it, and eventually things open up. I’m just getting a lot of help from my linemates, and we’ve got to keep it going.”
Toews, who is centering Brandon Saad and Andrew Shaw, ranks in the top 20 in goals (24), assists (37) and points (61). The reigning Selke Trophy winner as best defensive forward is plus-24, has a Corsi rating of plus-22 and ranks ninth in faceoffs at 56 percent.
Toews’ only goal of the Olympics was the game-winner in the gold-medal game, and he finished with three points in six outings. He skated 17:18 per game, most among Canadian forwards.
“Johnny rises to the occasion,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. “He’s a special player. He’s playing well. He was outstanding in the Olympics. I thought he was one of the best players in the tournament. The last few games it looks like he’s on that same pace.”
Toews’ three-game hot streak includes a 5-1 victory over Pittsburgh and a 6-1 shellacking of Columbus on Thursday. The Blackhawks have been off since the blowout, a result Chicago aims to make a regular occurrence.
“We’ve got to remind ourselves even if we get up early in the game a couple goals, we can keep working on our game regardless of where the game’s at,” Toews said. “We know we don’t have too many games left this year. Every point is important, but at the same time we want to keep improving.
“We’re motivated to build ourselves into the team we want to be come playoff time. That adds to it in a way to keep us honest, to make sure we’re competing the right way for these points.”
Kane, who had a goal-less Olympics for the United States, has no goals and two assists in Chicago’s four games since the NHL resumed. He’s still dealing with the death of his grandfather, Donald, who was his neighbor and confidant.
Kane ranks sixth in the league in points (65), 11th in assists (38) and 13th in goals (27). He’s fifth in power-play goals (10) and seventh in game-winning tallies (six).
The Sabres, who played back-to-back games Thursday and Friday in Florida, took Saturday off to recuperate.
The team made two roster moves, sending forward Luke Adam back to Rochester and recalling defenseman Chad Ruhwedel from the Amerks.
Adam, an emergency recall, had one shot and one penalty in 12:18 of ice time during Friday’s 2-0 loss to the Panthers.
Ruhwedel is the Amerks’ highest-scoring defenseman, with 25 points.
Defenseman Rostislav Klesla, who Buffalo acquired in its trade with Washington last week, said on Saturday he will not report to the Sabres. The 31-year-old defenseman told TSN he will take some time off before resuming his career in Europe. The Capitals had picked up Klesla from Phoenix one day before trading him to the Sabres in a deal involving goaltenders Michal Neuvirth and Jaroslav Halak.
Chicago will go with Corey Crawford in goal, and the netminder will go with new pads. His favorite pair was stolen last week when the Blackhawks played an outdoor game at Soldier Field.
“I was speechless,” Crawford said after learning of the theft. “I’ve never seen this before. I’ve never heard of this before. It’s crazy, man.”
He told the Chicago Tribune on Saturday he’s over it.
“These are my new ones, and that’s it,” he said. “I don’t really care.”