Longtime Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews returned from two-month medical leave of absence and played against the New Jersey Devils on Saturday night at the United Center.
Toews, 34, took the opening faceoff for the Hawks as he appeared in a game for the first time since Jan. 28. He made a statement through the team on Feb. 19 saying he would be stepping away because of the effects of chronic immune response syndrome and long COVID-19.
After training on his own, Toews returned to the ice with teammates in a practice session Tuesday. In a meeting with reporters after the skate, he hinted his stellar NHL career could be winding down after 15 seasons and stopped short of saying he planned to play in any remaining games.
Toews’ eight-year, $84 million contract is set to expire after the season.
After practice Friday, coach Luke Richardson said Toews was feeling stronger and might try to play Saturday against the fast-skating Devils, who are contending for first-place in the Metropolitan Division.
After Saturday morning’s skate, Toews confirmed he planned to play for the Hawks, who entered the game with the worst record in the NHL.
Toews, the No. 3 pick in the 2006 draft, joined the Hawks in 2007 and was a pillar of their Stanley Cup championship teams in 2010, 2013 and 2015.
At the peak of his career, he was one of the NHL’s top two-way centers, winning the Selke Trophy as the league’s top defensive forward in 2013.
In 1,060 regular-season games, Toews has 371 goals and 509 assists. In 139 playoff games, has posted 45 goals and 74 assists and won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP in 2010.
Toews missed the entire 2020-21 season with chronic immune response syndrome, which caused debilitating inflammation and fatigue. He appeared in 71 games in 2021-22.
Toews started this season with renewed energy before slowing and eventually shutting himself down. He had 14 goals and 14 assists in 46 games entering Saturday.