Blackhawks

Artem Anisimov and Nick Schmaltz out for Blackhawks' Friday-night bout with Islanders

Artem Anisimov and Nick Schmaltz out for Blackhawks' Friday-night bout with Islanders

The Blackhawks have had a lot of stability on their lines the last few weeks. That familiarity will be disrupted by injury and illness on Friday night.

Artem Anisimov is out Friday, and the same is likely true for Nick Schmaltz when the Blackhawks host the New York Islanders at the United Center. Anisimov (lower body), who left Wednesday's game early in the second period, skated on Friday morning but was deemed not ready for tonight. Schmaltz, who is sick, did not skate. Coach Joel Quenneville said both could play against the Nashville Predators on Saturday night.

Tanner Kero will probably get the first opportunity to center Artemi Panarin and Patrick Kane. Corey Crawford will start tonight but Scott Darling will not back him up (upper-body injury). Jeff Glass was recalled from Rockford and will serve as Crawford's backup tonight. Look for Ryan Hartman to go onto the top line, where he's played with Jonathan Toews and Richard Panik previously this season.

"That line's been doing some really good things with Schmaltzy. If he can't go, I'm looking forward to playing with those two guys," Hartman said. "They're hot right now and hopefully we can keep things going."

This is the second time in as many games the Blackhawks' opponent will be on a back-to-back. The Islanders beat the Dallas Stars 5-4 on Thursday night.

Johnny Oduya skated on Friday but, again, he's not expected to play until March 9. Quenneville is hoping the same scenario for Niklas Hjalmarsson (upper body), who hasn't started skating yet but could in the next few days.

Friday's projected lines and defensive pairings:

Blackhawks

Forward lines

Ryan Hartman, Jonathan Toews, Richard Panik
​Artemi Panarin, Tanner Kero, Patrick Kane
Tomas Jurco, Marcus Kruger, Marian Hossa
Andrew Desjardins, Dennis Rasmussen, Jordin Tootoo

Defensive pairs

Duncan Keith and Trevor van Riemsdyk
Michal Kempny and Brent Seabrook
Brian Campbell and Michal Rozsival

Goaltender

Corey Crawford

Injuries and illnesses: Niklas Hjalmarsson (upper body), Artem Anisimov (lower body), Nick Schmaltz (ill)

Islanders

Forward lines

Anders Lee, John Tavares, Josh Bailey
Andrew Ladd, Brock Nelson, Josh Ho-Sang
Shane Prince, Ryan Strome, Jason Chimera
​Nikolay Kulemin, Stephen Gionta, Cal Clutterbuck

Defensive pairs

Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk
Thomas Hickey and Scott Mayfield
Calvin de Haan and Dennis Seidenberg

Goaltender

Jean-Francois Berube

Injuries and illnesses: Mikhail Grabovski (concussion), Travis Hamonic (knee), Casey Cizikas (hand)

Blackhawks' Corey Crawford heating up just in time for Stanley Cup Playoffs

Blackhawks' Corey Crawford heating up just in time for Stanley Cup Playoffs

The biggest storyline of Blackhawks training camp 2.0 was Corey Crawford missing the first 12 days because he had tested positive for COVID-19. He showed up on the final practice day in Chicago, which was exactly one week from the start of the Stanley Cup Qualifiers against the Edmonton Oilers.

The Blackhawks did everything they could to get him ready for Game 1, but you knew it would take him a while to get back into top form. And it has.

In the first three games against the Oilers, Crawford allowed 13 goals on 92 shots for a save percentage of .859 and had a minus-5.68 goals saved above average, according to Natural Stat Trick, which ranked dead last among all goaltenders. 

But when the Blackhawks needed him most in Game 4, Crawford delivered. 

The two-time Stanley Cup champion turned aside 41 of 43 shots for a save percentage of .953 in Friday’s 3-2 series-clinching win against the Oilers, including all 18 in the third period, a handful of which came from high-danger areas.

"He's a huge part of our team and he played real well today," Dominik Kubalik said. "I thought he was our best player."

Click to download the MyTeams App for the latest Blackhawks news and analysis.

To take it a step further: Crawford stopped 16 of 18 shots from the slot and had nine saves from the inner slot, which is the third-most in a game by any goaltender this postseason, according to Sportlogiq. The Oilers had an expected goals for rate of 4.33 but scored only twice, which means Crawford saved the Blackhawks 2.33 goals.

It was a vintage performance between the pipes for No. 50.

"Obviously it wasn't the best scenario," Crawford said of having just one week to get ramped up for the qualifying round. "I would have liked to have had a few more weeks of practice and see more pucks coming into the series. But it is what it is. I think I felt way better each game, playing each game and just seeing different scenarios and situations. Once you get more of that, just the better you feel. Tonight was obviously better."

Despite turning in a terrific outing on Friday, Crawford admitted “there’s still some work to do” before he feels like in peak form. But if he gets there in time for the beginning of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Blackhawks could be a dangerous underdog team.

"I was able to kind of hide back there until I started feeling comfortable," Crawford said. "Still don't think I'm at the top of my game, but it was definitely better today."

Podcast: Blackhawks move on with 3-2 series-clinching win over the Oilers

Podcast: Blackhawks move on with 3-2 series-clinching win over the Oilers

It's been 5 years since the Hawks have won a playoff series and it feels so good. Host Pat Boyle is joined by Blackhawks analyst Steve Konroyd as they discuss the series-clinching Game 4 win over the Oilers, the importance of the win, and a look ahead to what's next for the Hawks.

(1:10) - Hawks were given a lottery ticket into the playoffs this year

(6:41) - Hawks still need to fix a few things

(10:00) - Jeremy Colliton tried 2 different lines with Kane in the series

(15:30) - The young players on the Hawks stepped up big this series

(18:48) - How do the Hawks match up against the Vegas Knights and Colorado Avalanche?

Click to download the MyTeams App for the latest Blackhawks news and analysis.