Blackhawks look to get back on track in Ottawa


Blackhawks look to get back on track in Ottawa

By Murray Pam contributor

Fresh off a six-game road trip, the Blackhawks barely had time to reacquaint themselves with their families before flying northeast to Ottawa.

Winless in their past two games, coach Joel Quenneville's team arrives in Canada's Capital looking to get back on track.

Quenneville was expected to pull out the bingo balls and perform a little line-juggling Thursday night. However, morning line combos suggest it's status quo for the time being.

Marian Hossa finished Tuesday's game alongside Jonathan Toews, but will remain with Marko Dano and Marcus Kruger to at least open Thursday's game against the Senators.

Notching 10 points in 22 games, Hossa is struggling offensively. It's possible a return to familiar surroundings will reignite his scoring prowess.

[MORE HAWKS: Blackhawks continue to look for solutions on offense]

The 1997 first-rounder compiled 390 points in 467 games with the Senators and is considered one of their greatest players.

The trio of Artemi Panarin-Artem Anisimov-Patrick Kane has accounted for 47 percent of the club's 68 goals this season. Blackhawks fans have come accustomed to viewing balanced contributions throughout the lineup, but that hasn't been the case this season.

Kane will be the center of attention as he attempts to extend his point streak to 21 games and tie Bobby Hull's club record set in 1971-72. Kane, the league's top point-getter, has 32 points (12 goals, 20 assists) in the last 20 games.

Corey Crawford will man the Blackhawks crease. Crawford is 2-0 in his career against the Senators. Residing two hours away in Montreal, Crawford will have plenty of friends and family in attendance.

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

Former Blackhawk and Chicago-native Craig Anderson gets the nod in net for Ottawa. Anderson is 5-2-3 against the club that selected him in the 2001 NHL draft.

The Senators will ice a depleted lineup of 11 forwards and seven defensemen. Clarke MacArthur has missed most of this season with a concussion. Milan Michalek fractured a finger Tuesday. While Mika Zibanejad will sit out for precautionary reasons. Zibanejad took a forearm to the jaw from Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Radko Gudas. Gudas was suspended three games for his actions.

The Blackhawks have won four their past six past meetings at the Canadian Tire Centre — only one in regulation. Nine of the Senators 24 games this season have gone into overtime. Ottawa leads the NHL with six shootout appearances.

Be prepared for a long evening.

Corey Crawford expects to make season debut for Blackhawks on Thursday vs. Arizona


Corey Crawford expects to make season debut for Blackhawks on Thursday vs. Arizona

The wait is almost over.

After missing nearly 10 months with a concussion, Corey Crawford said he expects to start on Thursday when the Blackhawks take on the Arizona Coyotes at the United Center. An official decision will come following the team's morning skate.

"It feels good to be back to myself," Crawford said. "I'm feeling good, I'm feeling clear. ... It was a pretty long process. But I think the most important thing was not to rush anything. When I finally was out, it got to a point where I wasn’t in shape to play and it was time to rest and it’s unfortunate it took a lot longer than I would’ve liked. 

"It’s been long, but finally, just to get back and be practicing with the team has meant a lot. It’s good to get to this point now when you’re really close to playing. 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."

Crawford's last appearance in an NHL game was Dec. 23, 2017 against the New Jersey Devils when he allowed three goals on seven shots in 13:22 of action before getting pulled. So of course, emotions will naturally be running high, especially in front of the hometown crowd.

"I'm sure I'll be a little anxious getting into it," Crawford said. "Some nerves. But we'll see. We'll wait until the morning, but I'm definitely excited I can tell you that."

It's obviously terrific news for the Blackhawks, who have picked up eight out of a possible 10 points to start the season and are getting their two-time Stanley Cup winning goalie back between the pipes. It's been a long time coming, and Crawford is coming back into a healthy situation where the Blackhawks are in a good spot in the standings.

"It's great news, I'm sure it'll be exciting for him exciting for our team, exciting for our fans and the organization as well," Patrick Kane said. "It’s probably a good situation all around. Cam [Ward] has done a great job of playing in the net so far. Crow is really good in practice right now, so I’m sure he’s itching to get back, too. We’ve had a good start here. It’s something we want to keep going, and I’m sure him coming back on home ice, in front of our crowd, will be a fun one for him and for our team."

There's no doubting how important Crawford is the team and organization. While there may be a little bit of rust early on, the Blackhawks are expecting him to look like his old self.

"He means a lot to the team," Quenneville said. "We felt last year was a good example of how important he was and how well he was playing for us, as well. We’ve gotten off to a decent start and he was a big factor in it. We know that goaltending is such a big part of the team and your success a lot of nights depends on him and his consistency’s always been in place.

"But he looks good in the net. He’s been off for a long, long time. Is there rust? Do we expect rust? I think the way he’s competing and practicing and finding pucks, he looks like he hasn’t missed a beat. So we’re looking forward to him getting in there and getting comfortable and how he’s feeling going forward will dictate a lot of the decisions about him going back in."

Hawks Talk Podcast: Crawford's return, Saad's demotion and power play concerns


Hawks Talk Podcast: Crawford's return, Saad's demotion and power play concerns

In the latest Hawks Talk Podcast, Pat Boyle, Charlie Roumeliotis and Slavko Bekovic provide their thoughts on the Blackhawks’ 3-0-2 start.

They also discuss Brandon Saad’s demotion and whether it could serve as a wake-up call, Corey Crawford’s potential return on Thursday vs. Arizona and what could happen with Anton Forsberg because of it, and address the power play concerns.

The guys wrap up the podcast by making a few bold predictions going forward.

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