Blackhawks

Blackhawks: Kyle Baun trying to make 'best impression'

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Blackhawks: Kyle Baun trying to make 'best impression'

Kyle Baun’s eyes lit up when he talked of playing in his first preseason game with the Blackhawks on Tuesday night.

“I’m super excited,” he said after Tuesday morning’s skate. “It’s a great opportunity, especially with the lineup we have. I’m just trying to make the best impression I can.”

He didn’t make a bad one.

Baun scored the game’s opening goal and was part of a solid fourth-line combination in the Blackhawks’ 5-4 overtime victory over the Detroit Red Wings. Baun is one of several young Blackhawks vying for a spot on the team this season.

[MORE: Blackhawks take preseason opener from Red Wings with OT win]

Baun signed with the Blackhawks last March and made his NHL debut on April 7 against the Minnesota Wild. Baun looked pretty calm that night. As for his first day in the Blackhawks’ locker room, Baun was in awe.

“It was definitely surreal, pretty cool and intimidating for sure,” he recalled. “It didn’t sink in until my first skate: you’re looking at all the last names and thinking, ‘wow, every single one of these guys is like a name player.’ It was an unbelievable experience. I hope it will be again this year.”

Quenneville was impressed with Baun’s three games at the end of last season. After the Stanley Cup run, Quenneville mentioned Baun as a player who could have a great opportunity this season. Baun entered the summer with that in the back of his mind.

“You try not to do anything too, too different [training-wise]. But there’s more motivation this summer, knowing the opportunity ahead of me,” Baun said. “So to an extent, you try to stay more focused, maybe not going out quite as much with the friends and stuff, and just work harder.”

Coach Joel Quenneville reiterated that possibility for Baun recently.

“He certainly a guy we’ve been watching closely,” he said. “There are a number of guys in a similar situation, there’s opportunity there. He made a real good impression on us last year going down that stretch. This year, we’ll see.”

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Yeah, about that competition: it’s definitely there this season for Baun. The Blackhawks already had some sandpaper guys on their team last year when Baun debuted, especially Andrew Shaw and Andrew Desjardins. Both are back this season and the Blackhawks also acquired Ryan Garbutt from the Dallas Stars as part of the Patrick Sharp trade. The three were line mates on Tuesday against the Detroit Red Wings.

“It definitely gets you up for every game,” he said. “Every time you’re on the ice it’s exciting. But I can only do my own thing and not try to worry about that too much.”

There are spots to be had this season with the Blackhawks but there will be several players vying for them. Baun has as good a chance as anyone. He just has to make the most of his training-camp audition. He didn’t have a bad night on Tuesday.

“It went all right. It’s good to get a goal. It’s nice to get that under the belt. Then I thought I played physical, kept it simple,” Baun said. “I thought our line was playing pretty well and buzzing around the net, had a few good chances. Overall, I thought it was a good game.”

BRIEFLY

— Marcus Kruger should arrive in Chicago on Wednesday. Quenneville said Kruger will skate with the Blackhawks on Friday.

— Artemi Panarin (upper body) will probably not play in a preseason game until next week, Quenneville said.

— The Blackhawks released forwards Hayden McCool, Radovan Bondra and Roy Radke from training camp on Tuesday. Their roster is now down to 59 players (33 forwards, 21 defensemen and five goaltenders). 

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!