Blackhawks

Blackhawks: Corey Crawford hoping to return soon

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Blackhawks: Corey Crawford hoping to return soon

Corey Crawford took shots from teammates instead of just goaltending coach Jimmy Waite on Tuesday, another sign that he’s getting better.

And if he’s feeling right and can get one regular-season game in, he’ll do it.

Crawford skated with the team for the first time since sustaining his upper-body injury as the Blackhawks prepped for the Arizona Coyotes on Tuesday. Crawford is still out of the lineup — Scott Darling will start and Michael Leighton will serve as the backup — but there’s a chance he could play the Blackhawks’ final regular-season game, against the Columbus Blue Jackets, on Saturday night.

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“That would always be nice,” Crawford said. “I think the little details kind of go away a little bit the longer you miss, but who knows? Practices have been pretty hard, pretty intense, technical stuff with Jimmy I’ve been working on. It feels good. Today felt good with the shots. Just go day by day, but right now, after today I felt good out there seeing stuff."

Crawford didn’t want to talk about his injury, or how it was sustained. But it’s been a frustrating few weeks for Crawford, who has been day-to-day since mid-March.

“You never want to be sitting out. It’s always frustrating watching the games from the sidelines. But hopefully I can get back in there soon,” said Crawford. “I’m not going to talk about [the injury]. Right now I want to be positive and think about what’s been going good for me right now and getting better.”

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Crawford is finally turning the corner on his injury. He’s been on the ice three of the last four days, Tuesday being the first time he joined the team since getting hurt. Coach Joel Quenneville sounded certain that Crawford would be starting the postseason. Crawford sounded a little less certain, but he’ll do everything possible to be ready when the playoffs begin.

“I’d love to. But then again, there’s no rush. It’s literally day-by-day,” Crawford said. “The training staff has done a good job. They always make sure our guys are ready when we get on the ice. It’s no different here. But today was a really good day.”

UPDATES

- Marian Hossa (lower body) is out vs. the Coyotes.

- Andrew Shaw (upper body) is also out. Quenneville said the Blackhawks could just sit Shaw for the rest of the regular season. “With him, the way he plays, we’ll make sure he’s more than ready if he’s going to be playing this week. So we’ll see how he progresses here the next few days. There is some progress but we’re going to make sure we’re more than 100 percent.”

How Blackhawks plan to handle Corey Crawford's workload

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

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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!