Blackhawks

Blackhawks not putting timeline on Corey Crawford's potential return despite first practice since concussion

Blackhawks not putting timeline on Corey Crawford's potential return despite first practice since concussion

For the first time since suffering a concussion on Dec. 16, 2018, Corey Crawford practiced with the Blackhawks on Saturday at MB Ice Arena. His on-ice session lasted roughly 25 minutes, however, before he left as practice continued.

Still, it's a positive step in his recovery process.

"Great to see him out there," coach Jeremy Colliton said. "I wouldn't read too much into it. Obviously it's a process here. He's not going to get too high or too low, and neither are we. But I'm happy for him that he felt good enough to be on the ice, and we'll see what happens."

With the Blackhawks on a six-game winning streak that has pulled themselves within two points out of a wild card spot, it's easy for Chicago to get excited and think about what he can bring to a team looking to make a legitimate playoff push. But there are still hurdles Crawford needs to get through. 

"I think there's a bunch of hurdles," Colliton said. "Just how he feels after today is probably a hurdle. But that's the nature of this injury. It's up and down sometimes, you can't explain things. But hopefully he keeps feeling better."

Crawford is clearly taking steps forward. He's been seen around the United Center several times, he's making public appearances, and he's been on the ice off and on for weeks now. He's certainly inching closer to a return.

But the Blackhawks aren't going to put a timeline on it. And neither is he.

"He doesn't tell us anything about timeline or anything like that," Colliton said. "But he's closer than he was before. ... No one wants to come back more than him. We’ll know when he’s ready."

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Corey Crawford acknowledges he's ready to return for Blackhawks

Corey Crawford acknowledges he's ready to return for Blackhawks

The Blackhawks are back within two points of a wild card spot, and they may finally be getting their star goaltender back soon.

After joining the team on the ice for the fourth time in a week, Corey Crawford met with the media on Friday and acknowledged he's essentially ready to come back. But it's not up to him when he'll actually return.

"It's really hard to say," Crawford said. "It's not up to me. I'm healthy to play right now. Really it's whether they think I'm ready to get in the net."

The Blackhawks have won eight of their past nine games, and have gotten terrific goaltending from Collin Delia and Cam Ward. There's no urgency to rush Crawford back, but if he's ready, he's ready and he basically serves as a trade deadline acquisition on his own.

"We've been playing great," Crawford said. "I think that's a tough situation too. Obviously you don't want to come back in and [not] be at the top of my game. We're in a pretty good run right now, a pretty good stretch. It's really thinking about what game do you throw me in? I'll leave that up to Jeremy [Colliton]. Whenever they want to, I'm ready to play."

Colliton was asked about Crawford's potential timeline and said there will be discussions internally about when he will be back between the pipes for the Blackhawks. All we know is, that won't come on Saturday against Columbus. But it likely will be very soon.

"It’s good to hear he’s feeling good," Colliton said. "That’s good. We’ll discuss it in the staff and let you know.”

Breaking down why Cam Ward has been better than his numbers show with Blackhawks

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USA TODAY

Breaking down why Cam Ward has been better than his numbers show with Blackhawks

If you look at Cam Ward's stat line this season, his numbers don't look great. In fact, they aren't very good.

His 3.60 goals against average ranks dead last in the NHL among goaltenders with at least 20 starts, and .898 save percentage ranks 39th out of 47th. But there's a reason for that.

Ward is facing 9.4 high-danger chances at even strength per game and a shade above 11 in all situations, according to naturalstattrick.com. No other goaltender is seeing that many quality of shots at that rate. Couple that with the fact that the Blackhawks are giving up the second-most shots in general (35.4) and the numbers simply won't favor the goaltender, no matter who's in net. 

On Thursday against the New Jersey Devils, Ward faced 19 total high-danger shots against. He stopped all 19 of those. He also turned aside 35 of 36 shots at 5-on-5 to up his season save percentage to .922 in that area.

Where Ward's overall save percentage has taken a big hit this season is the penalty kill. He's given up 26 power-play goals on 122 shots against for a .787 save percentage. Some of that is on him. But the Blackhawks statistically have the worst penalty kill in the league with a 73.4 percent kill rate, so there's plenty of blame to go around.

In the big picture, Ward deserves more credit than he's getting for his on-ice play with Corey Crawford out and off-ice role by serving as a great mentor for Collin Delia. Quite frankly, the Blackhawks likely wouldn't be in the playoff race at this point in the season if it wasn't for him because he's bridged the gap perfectly between a two-time Stanley Cup winning goalie and 24-year-old who had only two NHL starts going into this season.

Remember how last season turned out when they didn't have a veteran like Ward?