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Toews caught Jets opener on TV, preparing for 'tough' team

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CHICAGO -- They're still calling him Captain Serious here and it's not hard to see why.

Jonathan Toews is the chief purveyor of the attitude that last summer was just way too long.

Certainly that's hard to believe coming from a Winnipegger, but the captain of the Chicago Blackhawks has been professionally miserable since his team, trying to defend its 2010 Stanley Cup title, was knocked out of the playoffs in the first round last April.

And there's little point in mentioning that Toews had a career-best 76 regular season points in 2010-11.

"You could see it in training camp, that the guys were excited to be back," Toews said Wednesday at United Center, where the Hawks were preparing to meet the Winnipeg Jets tonight (TSN national, TSN radio 1290). "When you have a long off-season like that, you're pumped to play hockey again. To miss the game is probably the best thing."

The Blackhawks aren't back with a vengeance just yet but Toews is already talking about a new hunger in Chicago.

"We're 1-1, it's only two games and we played much better at home in our second game," he said. "We know we're going to have a feisty opponent with Winnipeg, coming off their first game, too."

It is the only meeting of the season between Chicago and the reborn Jets.

"It's only three games into the year so you're pumped up and excited but this will be one of those games you'll be trying to make something happen for sure," Toews said.

There will be few days the 23-year-old centre, now starting his fifth NHL season, will be found as relaxed as Wednesday but the topic of the league's return to his hometown is one of the subjects that can cause it.

Toews said he found Sunday's Jets season-opener on television here and he felt compelled to watch.

"I didn't see any of the pre-game shows, started watching near the end of the first period when I got home," he said. "It was fun to watch. Those players are definitely excited, that city is excited.

"We've got to be ready for a tough team because they're going to have a lot of legs and a lot of energy but most of all, the pressure of that home opener is going to be off them and they know they can just go play now. It's not going to be an easy game for us."

Toews also gave his thumbs up to the franchise's new look.

"I think it's pretty awesome," he said. "I don't really know what people are thinking about that jersey and logo in Winnipeg, whether they like it or not, but all those things have fallen into place with them renaming them the Jets. I think they did a great job. It's not my team, but as an outsider looking in, it's pretty cool to see that tradition restored."

One of the highlights of training camp for Toews was playing temporarily with his younger brother David, whom the Hawks acquired by trade this year.

They last skated together on the same team when they were six and four years old, Toews said.

"Not too many brothers get the chance to do that, especially at this level," he said.

David, a rookie pro, has since been assigned to Chicago's AHL team in Rockford, Ill.

Rockford is only an hour's drive away, and this is also a week for the Toews family to be together. Both his parents are in Chicago for tonight's first meeting between Winnipeg and Chicago in 15 years.

"They wouldn't miss it," Toews said.

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 13, 2011 C1

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