Blackhawks

Blackhawks prep for energetic Oilers

Blackhawks prep for energetic Oilers

A week ago, the Blackhawks rolled an Edmonton Oilers team that was lackluster coming off their bye week. Now the Blackhawks will try to avoid the same fate.

Corey Crawford will start and Michal Kempny returns to the lineup when the Blackhawks host the Oiler Saturday night at the United Center. The Blackhawks are coming off their six-day bye following their Ice Show trip, during which they went on a five-game winning streak.

The Oilers, meanwhile, have gotten their legs back under them. After falling to the Blackhawks, they rattled off a 5-2 victory over the Arizona Coyotes and a 6-3 triumph over the Philadelphia Flyers. The Blackhawks don’t want to come off the bye week the way the Oilers did last Saturday.

“We had a really good game against Edmonton away. We have to play the same way here tonight, get to the same pace,” Dennis Rasmussen said. “But it’s really important to have short shifts in the beginning, being off a couple of days.”

Most teams haven’t been successful coming off the bye week. Here’s the breakdown of how teams have done thus far (keep in mind, even if a team had the five-day break, they could practice after 4 p.m. local time on the fifth day):

TEAM DAYS OFF RESULT
Arizona Coyotes 5 W
Calgary Flames 5 L
Carolina Hurricanes 5 OTL
Colorado Avalanche 5 L
Edmonton Oilers 5 L
Florida Panthers 5 L
Los Angeles Kings 6 L
New Jersey Devils 5 L
New York Islanders 5 OTL
New York Rangers 5 L
Ottawa Senators 5 L
Philadelphia Flyers 5 L
Pittsburgh Penguins 7 W
Toronto Maple Leafs 5 W

The Blackhawks made three changes to the lineup out of last Saturday’s game, including Crawford getting back in net. Kempny is back in (Gustav Forsling remains in Rockford) and Andrew Desjardins draws back into the lineup (Vinnie Hinostroza also stayed in Rockford).

Regardless of lineup, the Blackhawks want to come out strong and stay that way.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

“Concerns are when we’re playing a team in that situation, where it’s like the start of the season, coming off breaks, we’re always emphasizing shooting the puck, getting traffic at the net. Being ready to play with the mental and simple approach is what we’re trying to do and making sure that there’s a purpose behind how we’re ready to start,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “Especially against a quick team like this, we want to make sure we’re going to be aware of their rush game and their transition game. That’s why we want to be simple and ready.”

Broadcast information

Time: 6 p.m.

TV: WGN, NHL Network

Radio: WGN 720 AM

Blackhawks forward lines

Nick Schmaltz -Jonathan Toews-Richard Panik

Artemi Panarin-Artem Anisimov-Patrick Kane

Dennis Rasmussen-Marcus Kruger-Marian Hossa

Ryan Hartman-Tanner Kero-Andrew Desjardins

Defensive pairs

Duncan Keith-Niklas Hjalmarsson

Michal Kempny-Brent Seabrook

Brian Campbell-Trevor van Riemsdyk

Goaltender

Corey Crawford

Injuries

None

Oilers forward lines (via team website)

Patrick Maroon-Connor McDavid-Jordan Eberle

Milan Lucic-Leon Draisaitl-Anton Slepyshev

Drake Caggiula-Ryan Nugent-Hopkins-Zack Kassian

Matt Hendricks-Mark Letestu-Iiro Pakarinen

Defensive pairs

Andrej Sekera-Matt Benning

Oscar Klefbom-Adam Larsson

Brandon Davidson-Eric Gryba

Goaltender

Cam Talbot

Injuries 

Jujhar Khaira (wrist), Darnell Nurse (ankle), Tyler Pitlick (knee), Kris Russel (undisclosed)

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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USA TODAY

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.