Vinnie Hinostroza

Corey Crawford returns as Blackhawks shake up roster

Corey Crawford returns as Blackhawks shake up roster

After missing three games with a lower-body injury, Corey Crawford will return between the pipes when the Blackhawks begin a three-game homestand Friday against the Buffalo Sabres.

It's a nice confidence boost for a Blackhawks team looking to snap a five-game losing streak.

"It's huge," Duncan Keith said. "Obviously he's been great all year and for the last several years for us. A big part of our success. We know that when he's in net there, he makes those big saves when we need them. I think it gives everybody more confidence knowing we've got a guy back there that can make those type of saves and keep us in it even when we're not at our best."

The Blackhawks also recalled Vinnie Hinostroza from the AHL’s Rockford IceHogs, the team announced Friday, after Tanner Kero cleared waivers.

Hinostroza was averaging nearly a point-per-game in Rockford, where he led the team with 22 points (nine goals, 13 assists) in 23 games, and had a plus-7 rating.

His offensive production in the AHL was too difficult to ignore, and the Blackhawks felt it was finally time to add him into the mix as they continue to search for some consistency up front.

"I just want to take it day by day, work hard to get back here," Hinostroza said. "Hard work's not over. I just want to come to the rink every day and still work hard and prove I belong here.

Hinostroza will certainly bring an element of speed to the four-line rotation, and maybe provide more balance.

It's unclear whose spot Hinostroza will take in the lineup because he didn't participate in morning skate, but expect him to play on the third line.

Alex DeBrincat was moved up to the top line with Jonathan Toews and Brandon Saad while Nick Schmaltz was reunited with Artem Anisimov and Patrick Kane on the second line.

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks look to end skid vs. Sabres

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Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks look to end skid vs. Sabres

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Buffalo Sabres tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. Reinforcements coming?

After losing their fifth straight game, the Blackhawks recognized that changes needed to be made. So on Thursday, they placed Tanner Kero on waivers and all indications point to Vinnie Hinostroza getting recalled if/when Kero clears.

Hinostroza leads the Rockford IceHogs with 22 points (nine goals, 13 assists) in 23 games, and has proven he belongs on the big league roster. It'll be interesting to see where he plays, if he's in fact the player coming up. His speed can certainly help provide an offensive spark, and might be better suited to play a top six role off the get go.

2. Anton Forbserg or Jean-Francois Berube?

Forsberg was really good in his first two starts after Corey Crawford went down with a lower-body injury, but he struggled in his third one Wednesday in Washington, allowing three goals in a span of 3:28 and was pulled before the first period ended.

Berube wasn't too bad in relief. He stopped 12 of 14 shots, and didn't look out of place. There's a chance Crawford returns Sunday vs. Arizona, so this could be the only chance Berube gets at starting before then.

3. American boys.

It's unfortunate we won't get to see the possibility of Patrick Kane and Jack Eichel playing on a line together for Team USA at the 2018 Winter Olympics. It could have been special to watch as two of the faces of the country.

But they will share the same sheet of ice tonight, and each of them tend to take their game to a higher level when they square off.

Eichel has recorded at least a point in three of four career games against Chicago while Kane has 15 points (eight goals, seven assists) in 13 games against his hometown Sabres. Kane had two goals and three assists against them last year, including an overtime winner on Jan. 5 at home.

Blackhawks putting finishing touches on 23-man Opening Day roster

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks putting finishing touches on 23-man Opening Day roster

The Blackhawks are putting the finishing touches on their 23-man Opening Day roster, sending Vinnie Hinostroza to the American Hockey League’s Rockford IceHogs and placing forwards Tomas Jurco and Jordin Tootoo, and goaltender J-F Berube on waivers Monday. Michal Rozsival was also placed on long-term injured reserve.

The roster now sits at 27 players (16 forwards, eight defensemen and three goaltenders), but will be reduced to 24 once those other three clear waivers (or get claimed by another team).

That leaves us with one more cut.

Cody Franson, who's on a professional tryout agreement with the Blackhawks, has made it this far without getting the ax, and he's certainly performed well enough in training camp and preseason to earn an opportunituy to at least be in the mix on that blue line. All indications point to the 30-year-old defenseman signing a short-term deal with Chicago after roster space is cleared up, meaning he will likely be the final cut — for now — to get the team down to 23.

Marian Hossa needs to be on the roster Day 1, where he is then expected to be placed on LTIR.

Top prospect Alex DeBrincat has secured a spot, as has Lance Bouma, John Hayden, Tommy Wingels and defensemen Jordan Oesterle and Jan Rutta.

The challenging part may be becoming cap compliant by Wednesday, so it will be interesting to see how that affects the final roster decisions. But if there's anyone that has become an expert at navigating the salary cap though, it's Stan Bowman.