Blackhawks

Battle Notes: Blackhawks at Wild

612116.png

Battle Notes: Blackhawks at Wild

Matchup

Blackhawks at Wild

Where? When? Television?

Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, MN; 6:30 p.m.; Versus
Where they stand

Blackhawks: 18-8-4 (40 points) - First in Central Division, Second in Western Conference

Wild: 20-8-3 (43 points) - First in Northwest Division, First in Western Conference

Last game

The Blackhawks are coming off a 3-2 OT victory against the Sharks on Sunday night. Patrick Sharp scored the game-winning goal at the 4:26 mark of overtime. Andrew Brunette had some late heroics, scoring a goal to tie the game at the 18:54 mark of the third period. Ray Emery picked up the victory in his second straight game since taking over for Corey Crawford.

The Wild fell, 2-1 to the Jets on a late goal in third period by Jeff Little of Winnipeg. Guillaume Latendresse scored the only goal for Minnesota and Mikko Koivu and Dany Heatley added assists.

Who's Hot?

The stars have been shining bright for Chicago this month. Sharp leads the Blackhawks in goals (5) and points (8) in the month of December. Marian Hossa, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane have each notched seven points in December.

Minnesota has spread around the wealth so far this month. Kyle Brodziak leads the team in goals (4) and is tied in points (6) with Koivu and Pierre-Marc Bouchard.
Storylines

The Blackhawks are looking for their third straight victory and trying to state their case for why they're the top team in the Western Conference.

Can Emery continue his winning streak since taking over for Crawford?

How will the 'Hawks fare against Minnesota's stingy defense, who has only allowed 2.10 goals per game?

Between the pipes

Emery for the Blackhawks

Undecided for the Wild
Prediction

Blackhawks 2, Wild 1

Share your predictions in the comment box below and let us know what your looking forward to most in this matchup.

How Blackhawks plan to handle Corey Crawford's workload

crawford_workload_usa_today.jpg
USA TODAY

How Blackhawks plan to handle Corey Crawford's workload

Corey Crawford is back and it didn't look like he skipped much of a beat. The Blackhawks were handed their first regulation loss of the season to the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday, but the 33-year-old netminder stopped 27 of 30 shots (.900 save percentage) in his season debut and made several timely saves to keep his team in it.

In the larger picture, it was a win based on how well Crawford looked between the pipes.

"Yeah, I think it is," coach Joel Quenneville said after practice on Friday. "It's one of things we were wondering, how he would handle post-game and how he came in today. Very encouraging signs. He felt good in all aspects of what he went through and dealt with, and practiced well today too, so that was good."

The first one is in the books.

But what's the plan going forward? Will Crawford be on a "pitch count" or will they treat him like they have in past seasons when he was healthy?

In the past, Crawford has generally started somewhere in between 55-58 games per season. Part of that has been because of injuries. Another part is the Blackhawks have had reliable backups, which allowed them to give Crawford an extra night off here and there to keep him fresh.

It's not unreasonable, though, to think Crawford could flirt with 50 starts, considering he missed only five games to start the season. And they can still accomplish that by playing it safe.

The Blackhawks have 13 more back-to-backs this season, which gives them the opportunity to start Cam Ward at some point in each of them. That leaves room for another 15 or so starts to sprinkle in for Ward that could serve as rest days for Crawford and still being on track to start around 50.

Obviously, the Blackhawks want to be careful with how much they ask of Crawford because concussions are tricky to deal with and every player responds differently to it.

His return comes at a time where the Blackhawks are slated to play seven games in 11 days after playing just two in the previous 10. Thursday marked the start of that stretch.

"He’ll tell us how he feels and we’ll go from there and make those decisions," Quenneville said.

The Blackhawks have been on record saying they prefer not to carry three goaltenders. But in this case it makes sense. At least in the short term.

Quenneville said Friday that the Blackhawks will reevaluate the situation at the end of the weekend following the beginning of a busy stretch where they'll play three games in four days.

"Yeah, that’s the mindset," he said. "Let’s see how we handle these three in four and then we’ll address it."

Crawford is expected to start on Saturday in Columbus, making it his second start in three days. That's when they'll get a better sense of how he's handling things.

If it were up to him, Crawford said he feels he's prepared for it.

"Yeah, sure," Crawford said. "Why not? I've been working hard with [strength and conditioning coach Paul Goodman]. He's got me where I need to be, so I'm in shape right now. Why not?"

Hawks Talk Podcast: Thoughts on Corey Crawford's season debut

crawford_usa_today_debut.jpg
USA TODAY

Hawks Talk Podcast: Thoughts on Corey Crawford's season debut

In the latest Hawks Talk Podcast, Pat Boyle, Jamal Mayers and Charlie Roumeliotis recap Corey Crawford’s season debut after missing nearly 10 months with a concussion.

Mayers talks about the Kitty system that Niklas Hjalmarsson and Vinnie Hinostroza probably dealt with in their returns to Chicago.

The guys also discuss what’s next for Crawford, the upcoming matchup against Artemi Panarin and the Columbus Blue Jackets, and the Blackhawks’ biggest areas for improvement.

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below, and be sure to subscribe, rate us and write a review!