Blackhawks: Marian Hossa to suit up for 1,200th game tonight


Blackhawks: Marian Hossa to suit up for 1,200th game tonight

Marian Hossa will play in his 1,200th career game and Corey Crawford will start when the Blackhawks host the Vancouver Canucks tonight at the United Center.

Hossa, who did not participate in this morning’s skate, struggled to score points this season but his defensive game has remained steady. And reaching this number of games certainly speaks to his longevity.

“Consistency is probably a good description to his career and in games as well,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “He plays both sides of the puck extremely well, has great purpose to his game and [has been a] great professional over the years. He’s really has done a lot for our team and you just like the way he approaches each and every game.”

Patrick Kane enters tonight’s game on a 25-game point streak. The Blackhawks were noticeably trying to get him to establish the new franchise mark (he broke Bobby Hull’s 21-game mark last Sunday vs. Winnipeg). But they’ve since gotten back to their normal game. Kane doesn’t let the streak dominate his mind too much, either.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

"I mean, we're not worried about it. I think it was exciting when it was around 19, 21, 22 games, but I think we're not thinking about that anymore. We're focused on winning games,” Kane said. “We've been playing a little better as of late – except for the game in Nashville – and we've got a few home games here to try and pick up some points. That's where our minds are. Nothing else, really."

The Blackhawks have won three out of four games entering tonight. Their last outing against Vancouver was an ugly one, with Daniel and Henrik Sedin combining for four goals and five assists (three of those goals were Daniel’s) in a 6-3 loss on Nov. 21.

“We better be a lot more careful than the last time we saw them. They were unbelievable that night and they can do that any given night,” Quenneville said of the Sedins. “They have great patience, play recognition and they’re dangerous. We don’t want to put them on the power play; we have a lot of respect for what they’re capable of.”

The Blackhawks look to be going with the same lineup as on Friday. Brandon Mashinter and David Rundblad will remain in the lineup. Ryan Garbutt and Michal Rozsival are expected to be the scratches.

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


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!