Blackhawks

Blackhawks notes: Could Artemi Panarin play vs. Ducks?

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Blackhawks notes: Could Artemi Panarin play vs. Ducks?

The Blackhawks have certainly missed Artemi Panarin these last two games.

It’s no excuse for their two losses. But when you’re missing that offense, as well as the work he and fellow second liners Artem Anisimov and Patrick Kane have done together this season, it’s a void even for a short amount of time.

And while Panarin didn’t practice with the team on Friday, there’s a chance he could play tomorrow night.

Panarin had an off-ice workout and could play on Saturday night when the Blackhawks face the Anaheim Ducks. Panarin has been out with an illness but coach Joel Quenneville said he was “encouraged” with how the left wing was feeling on Friday.

“He’s made good progress,” Quenneville said. “Hopefully at the same rate tomorrow, he’s playing.”

Corey Crawford will start vs. the Ducks.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

The Blackhawks went back to their battle drills at Friday’s practice. When those drills come out, it’s a clear sign that Quenneville wasn’t happy with their outing the previous night. The Blackhawks came on strong in the third period of their 4-2 loss to the Dallas Stars, but were terrible in the first 20 minutes, when the Stars took a 4-0 lead.

“We were very slow out of the gate, basically two games in a row,” Quenneville said. “When we’re more competitive in the puck area, that’s how we’re effective. You can get the puck more that way as well and you can keep it longer. We were too easy to play against two games in a row. We had success before because we were hungrier and more competitive.”

Andrew Desjardins said it was tough to pinpoint why the Blackhawks were so off in their first two games of this home stand.

“I think the last two games, just the compete level, commitment to doing the right things,” he said. “It’s been good at times – in the third when we were coming back, but when a team’s holding a lead like that they may be sitting back more. It’s just that compete and intensity level. We just have to get mad and get a little more pissed off going into the next game. Our effort level can go up.”

The Blackhawks have been great at home this season, and their inability not to take advantage of these first two games was frustrating. They need to take advantage of the next two if they want to try and maintain their slim Central Division lead. The battle the Blackhawks showed in Friday’s practice has to be there from the start in Saturday’s game.

“I thought we played as good as we’ve played at any time all year in those three games [out of the All-Star break]. We were flat vs. San Jose and really poor last night. We’ve been pretty good at home. That was the thing we’re not pleased about: play the right way at home. We shouldn’t get blown out in the first period of an important game like that like [Thursday] night.”

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!