Blackhawks' rookie Toews the missing link?

Sure, Patrick Kane has the skills the Chicago Blackhawks expect from a top overall pick, but could teammate Jonathan Toews be the better candidate to win the Calder Trophy?

His play on Thursday night seems to indicate that he is.

Toews recorded his first multigoal game in the NHL, scoring twice in the Blackhawks' 6-1 win over the Nashville Predators. He also notched an assist for the third straight game.

"We are getting some luck goals here and there the last couple of games," Toews said. "I think it is the result of the effort we have been putting out. I don't think it is just a coincidence."

While Kane earned his share of headlines months after being selected first overall in last summer's NHL draft, Toews quietly put together credentials that rival -- if not outright surpass -- his teammate's.

Through Jan. 1, Toews led all rookies with 15 goals and had 32 points, five fewer than Kane. But it was in a 9-2 loss to the woeful Los Angeles Kings on New Year's Day when Toews suffered a knee injury after being checked.

He would miss the next 16 games, and the Blackhawks just looked lost. They started by going on a six-game losing streak and finished 5-9-2 in Toews' absence. Perhaps more glaring, when Chicago was held to two goals or less with Toews out, they failed to win in regulation in 12 games (3-8-1).

Kane has nine goals and 28 assists when the calender flipped to 2008, but with Toews out, managed just three goals and six assists.

The Blackhawks retun home on Sunday to face the Colorado Avalanche, who may have nightmares about what Toews did to them earlier this season.


1. Toews, Chicago Blackhawks: Playing his third game back after missing nearly six weeks with a knee injury, Toews tallied two goals in a 6-1 win over Nashville. It was the first multigoal game as a pro for third overall pick in the 2006 NHL draft.

2. Ilya Bryzgalov and Radim Vrbata, Phoenix Coyotes: Bryzgalov made 24 saves and Vrbata notched his 25th goal of the season and 100th of his career as the Coyotes snapped the Dallas Stars' franchise record high-tying seven-game winning streak, 5-2.

3. Manny Legace, St. Louis Blues: Legace improved to 13-2-0 with a 1.88 goals-against average in his career against the Avalanche after making 39 saves in a 4-1 win. Legace also is 6-0-0 with a 1.67 GAA lifetime at the Pepsi Center in Denver.

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