Blackhawks

After long layoff, Carcillo ready to hit the ice

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After long layoff, Carcillo ready to hit the ice

Daniel Carcillo had a lot of time on his hands this past year.

His last on-ice hit, on Jan. 2, 2012, was a painful one in two ways. Not only did he get a seven-game suspension for boarding Edmontons Tom Gilbert, but he also suffered a season-ending knee injury. The reconstructive surgery for that left knee was one year ago today.

Couple all that with four months worth of a lockout, and its been one long year for Carcillo. But the Blackhawks instigator used the time constructively, and not just rehabbing his knee.

I had a lot of time to myself and I looked at certain things I was doing in my life and decided to make changes, with and away from training, Carcillo said. It was a good reflection period. And it was good to grow physically and mentally.

Carcillo has worked on a few things during this long layoff, but he and the Blackhawks are still looking for him to keep that edge when the team opens its regular season Saturday afternoon in Los Angeles. Carcillo was on the top line with Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa throughout camp, a season after starting on the second line with Hossa and Patrick Kane. On that second line, he was agitating and, for the most part, kept on the right side of that edge.

Cars is an energy player, Hossa said. Basically, he can go hard to the net and get extra room for the chances, so its going to work out great for us. He gets his feet going and hes really a huge key in our line because he makes room for us.

The Blackhawks hope he does the same with Toews and Hossa.

He probably thinks won the lottery being with those two, coach Joel Quenneville said. We like his presence with that group. He started last year with Kaner and Hoss, and he was successful prior to injury. We want him to be a distraction for the goalie, be hard and be simple. Hes excited about being back.

Indeed, he is. Carcillo was skating with the Blackhawks in their informal workouts early in the fall. But once he was cleared, he was playing the waiting game just like everyone else. It wasnt always easy, before, during and after rehabbing that knee.

When something like that happens to you, you feel like you can go one or two ways: you sit and sulk about it or use it to drive you, said Carcillo, whos included meditation in his daily routines. I used (the time) to make changes in my life and its been good. When you have an injury like that, you just focus on yourself a lot more, you know? Im just glad to be back around the guys and be in this environment again.

And about that knee: it passed its first test on Wednesday night when the Blackhawks scrimmaged against themselves and several Rockford players. Physically, Carcillo is ready to go.

Im ready for the year, he said. That was a good test (Wednesday), and Im sure Saturday will be another one. Its just about getting back to being fast, being better.

And as far as the other changes, does that mean well see a calmer Carcillo?

I dont think so, he said. But maybe more in control, with more focused energy.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Are Blackhawks doomed to miss playoffs without Crawford?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Are Blackhawks doomed to miss playoffs without Crawford?

Jesse Rogers (ESPN Chicago), Patrick Finley (Chicago Sun-Times) and Dan McNeil join Chuck Garfien on the panel.

Corey Crawford is reportedly suffering vertigo-like symptoms and there’s a chance he might not return this season. Are the Blackhawks playoff chances gone if he doesn’t come back?

Plus, the guys talk Bears coaches, preview Conference Championship weekend and Jesse discusses if the Cubs are saving their money for next winter’s big free agent class.

Listen to the latest SportsTalk Live Podcast right here:

Why Corey Crawford situation is tricky for Blackhawks

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Why Corey Crawford situation is tricky for Blackhawks

The Blackhawks have been tight-lipped about Corey Crawford's status ever since he was placed on injured reserve on Dec. 27 with an upper-body injury, and it's fueled rampant speculation on social media about what's really going on. That came to an end on Tuesday when Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun-Times reported that there's growing concern within the organization that its star goaltender could miss the remainder of the season with vertigo-like symptoms. (Blackhawks senior adviser Scotty Bowman went on Sportsnet 590 The Fan on Wednesday to clarify it's post-concussion syndrome).

And while there's at least some clarity surrounding Crawford's condition, it's opened up more questions about what the Blackhawks may do going forward.

On Monday we broke down the unfavorable playoff picture for the Blackhawks going into the bye week, which was a glaring concern in and of itself. Add in the possibility that Crawford could be sidelined for the rest of the campaign and those chances absolutely diminish.

So what course of action should the Blackhawks take ahead of the Feb. 26 trade deadline? That's where the tricky part comes in.

Because of the nature of Crawford's injury, the Blackhawks aren't at a point right now where they want to put him on long-term injured reserve because that would require him to miss a minimum of 10 games or 24 days, and they're still holding out hope that he could come back within that timeframe. The problem with it is that nobody really knows. It could be days, weeks or months, and putting a restriction on that doesn't make much sense in the middle of a playoff run even though it would open up significant cap space.

Which brings us to our next point. There are certainly some decent rental goaltenders (Robin Lehner, Petr Mrazek or Antti Raanta, to name a few) on the market if the Blackhawks choose to go that route, but that might not be the wisest thing to do.

Given their spot in the standings and the chances Crawford could return, why risk giving up future assets for a playoff run that may not happen? It would be different if the Blackhawks wanted to add some insurance for the stretch run and postseason, but there's no guarantee it'll happen.

If the Blackhawks did, however, want to go that route, they would need to act quickly because there's no point in waiting closer to the deadline. Every point is crucial from here on out.

Perhaps the best and most logical idea is to stand pat.

Let it ride with Anton Forsberg and Jeff Glass and hope they can hold the fort down until a potential Crawford return. Let the young guys continue to grow. Maybe add a defenseman to patch up the back end, but don't empty the tank. There's no reason to. The Blackhawks are hoping to sign highly-touted prospect Dylan Sikura after his college season ends, which would serve as a deadline acquisition by itself.

It will be tempting for the Blackhawks to be aggressive at the trade deadline in the wake of Crawford's injury, and they're surely already having these discussions as they continue to explore the different avenues. But this might be a rare case where doing nothing is the right way to go.