Blackhawks

Blackhawks expecting the Wild's best in Game 4

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Blackhawks expecting the Wild's best in Game 4

ST. PAUL, Minn. – Backs against the wall, in a must-win situation and facing the most desperate situation.

Insert whatever cliché you’d like: the Minnesota Wild is experiencing it right now. The Blackhawks could sweep them out of the postseason, so it’s the Wild’s (potential) last stand.

[MORE - Wild ready to 'attack' Blackhawks' game plan]

Will this be it or will the Wild force a Game 5? The Blackhawks know they’ll have to bring their best effort – a la Game 2, if you will – to finish this off tonight.

“Obviously this will be the toughest one,” Bryan Bickell said. “Their backs are to the wall and they have nothing to lose. They’ll give it all every shift to get one [victory]. We expect a high-pace game again. Last game we kind of handled the storm early, stuck to our systems. We got a couple good bounces on the power play to get that goal and just held them off from there.”

With the Wild facing elimination, it’s not a big surprise that it made some lineup changes. Star Tribune reporter Michael Russo chronicles them here – hey, it’s easier to have the Wild guru explain it to you. Coach Mike Yeo joked that he went to scientific lengths to come up with the new combinations.

“Dice, BINGO balls,” he told the media. “Obviously you’ve got to make some changes.”

Additionally, Nate Prosser will make his postseason debut tonight. He comes in on defense, replacing Jordan Leopold. Prosser, who hails from nearby Elk River, Minn., is excited to get back into the lineup after sitting the last month. Oh, and it’s also his 29th birthday today.

“It’s at an all-time high. How can you beat this?” Prosser said of the anticipation tonight brings. “At home, in front of my family and friends at the Xcel playing against the Blackhawks. You can’t beat that, you can’t even write that up. On top of that, it’s my birthday today so it all kind of boiled into one today. I’m really excited for tonight and just want to bring my game.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans]

The Blackhawks didn’t expect to be up 3-0 in this series. They’ve done it with a combination of timely goals, stronger defense and goaltending. It would be easy for them to look ahead to the Western Conference Finals, where they seem destined to go for the third consecutive season. But they’ve gotten to this point looking no further than the next game, and they’re not changing now.

“They went on an amazing run to get to the playoffs. We know what they’re capable of doing and they have a structured team game as well,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “Every game has been tight, close. We expect that same tonight and we want to make sure we even raise our level of play.”

Blackhawks make it official: Corey Crawford is back

Blackhawks make it official: Corey Crawford is back

He’s back.

Corey Crawford was officially activated from injured reserve on Thursday and will start in goal for the first time since Dec. 23, 2017 when the Blackhawks host the Arizona Coyotes.

"It’s exciting," coach Joel Quenneville said. "I’m sure he’s looking forward to it and we’re all excited about it as well. It’ll be a fun situation for the guys, seeing him back in the net as well. So we’re looking for everyone to be excited about tonight’s game."

The two-time Stanley Cup champion was medically cleared to practice from his concussion on Oct. 1, but the Blackhawks wanted to give Crawford as much time as he needed to get his conditioning and puck-tracking skills up to game speed before putting him into game action.

"It feels good to be back to myself," Crawford said on Wednesday. "I'm feeling good, I'm feeling clear. It was a pretty long process. ... Practices have been great, been getting timing a little bit more and getting up to speed and reading shots and all that, so it'll be nice to finally get in one."

To make room for Crawford on the 23-man roster, the Blackhawks have assigned forward Luke Johnson to the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League. Brandon Saad, who wore a white healthy scratch jersey all week at practice, will take his spot in the lineup.

For now, the Blackhawks will hang on to Anton Forsberg and carry three goaltenders as insurance as they get ready to start a seven-games-in-11-days stretch.

Crawford was 16-9-2 with a 2.27 goals against average, .929 save percentage and two shutouts in 28 games last season. The Blackhawks were 17-30-8 without him and finished last in the Central Division.

Sports Talk Live Podcast: Is Crawford ready to go?

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USA TODAY

Sports Talk Live Podcast: Is Crawford ready to go?

Jimmy Greenfield, Connor McKnight, and Matt Spiegel join Kap on the panel to discuss Corey Crawford back on the ice for the first time in 10 months. The Bears have good news when it comes to Khalil Mack, who injured his ankle against the Dolphins.

Plus, Fred Hoiberg announces that Jabari Parker is coming off the bench for the season opener.

Listen to the full episode here or via the embedded player below: