As he reached his dressing-room stall Thursday, Jonathan Toews pivoted and sought a towel to clear a face coated in perspiration. Then the Blackhawks captain assured an assembled crowd that his imminent return is no sweat.

Toews missed his 18th straight game Thursday night as the Hawks beat the Blues 4-3 in a shootout but said he's nearing clearance for contact and will rejoin the lineup "any day now," which oddly becomes more of a luxury than a life preserver for a team that got along nicely without him, thank you.

"I definitely just want to go back on the ice and fit in wherever I can," Toews said. "The boys have been playing good hockey, and it's all about just adding to the mix instead of trying to do too much and pick up exactly where I left off. We all know that's not going to be easy."