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Blackhawks Fri Nov 01 2013

Toews Heads Home to Winnipeg for the First Time

Thumbnail image for GB blackhawks icon.pngThey say that no matter wherever it is you go, you can always come back home. That will be the case for Blackhawks' captain Jonathan Toews, as he and his team head north of the border for a Saturday matinée in Manitoba to open up the month of November after closing out a pretty successful October

This will mark the first time in Toews' career that he will compete on a professional level in his hometown Winnipeg, which surely will provide mixed emotions for all parties involved. If you're a parent, sibling, close friend -- heck, even ex-girlfriend -- of one of the marquee players in the NHL, who happens to be making his triumphant return on your home ice, do you sport the iconic sweater from Chicago with the number 19 on your back or stay true to your team by wearing the Jets logo? All bets are on for a sea of red and signs reading "Welcome Home" at the MTS Centre Saturday afternoon.

Even though the Jets moved from Atlanta to Winnipeg before the 2011-'12 season, it still marks the first Toews homecoming on regular-season ice since the perennial all-tar turned pro. Last season, due to the lockout, all teams played in their respective conference. And since the Jets were located in the East at the time (they've since shifted to the West at the start of this current season), it meant no game against the Blackhawks during the championship run.

Two seasons ago, the teams' first since the Jets made the transformation from the Thrashers brand in Atlanta, they played only once, and that was a 4-3 Blackhawks win at the United Center.

"It's going to be exciting," said Toews on his return. "It brings back a lot of memories -- that's where it all started when I was watching the Winnipeg Jets play as a young kid. I never really thought throughout all those years when there wasn't a team in Winnipeg that I'd ever get the chance to go back there."

Earlier this summer, Toews made a different homecoming of sorts to Winnipeg by bringing his close friend Lord Stanley along for the ride. Toews showed off the most prized trophy in sports to hundreds of fans, as the hometown kid raised it over his head and kissed it every step of the way. That was a fun trip for all parties involved, but rest assured, Saturday afternoon will be all business for Captain Serious.

"This might be another one of those special moments that I'll try to enjoy," Toews said of the homecoming. "But at the same time we're playing better as a team, and the focus is definitely going to be on our little winning streak right now."

Make no mistake that while home is where Toews's heart is, winning a divisional game is where his focus takes priority. Coming off a hat trick against the Senators, a game in which he helped lift his team from a 4-2 deficit to a 6-5 win, proved what fans in Chicago and in Winnipeg already knew: special players come up big when the odds are stacked against them.

The game also marks a reunion of sorts of former Blackhawks players who have since been sent to Winnipeg after finding success in Chicago. Michael Frolík, who was sent to Winnipeg on June 30 for a third (center John Hayden) and fifth round pick (center Luke Johnson), surely will shake hands before doing what he does best on any impending penalty kills.

Captain Andrew Ladd, who is second on the team in points with 10 (three goals, seven assists) and "Big Buff" Dustin Byfuglien remain after the Blackhawks gutted the 2010 championship team due to cap space. Both skaters were key figures during that run and are doing what they can to help their team get back to even, trailing the Blackhawks by seven points in the standings.

Deep down, it has to be a humbling experience for Toews to skate tall in his small home town of Winnipeg, even with his business-like approach we see every game. We might even see Captain Serious crack a grin or two, even if it's at the expense of potentially beating his hometown fans' favorite team. All bets are that they'll make an exception in this case.

 
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