Blackhawks

Blackhawks: Patrick Sharp has emotional return to Chicago

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Blackhawks: Patrick Sharp has emotional return to Chicago

Patrick Sharp stood in the hallway, catching up with some former teammates after the Blackhawks-Dallas Stars game.

It was a strange feeling to be at the United Center as a visitor, for sure.

“It was a little difficult to be honest with you,” Sharp said after the Blackhawks beat the Stars 4-0 in the preseason finale for both. “I’m kind of happy to do it in the preseason to get a feel for what it’s going to be like a few times. Lot of emotions out there; I know it’s just a preseason game, but it’s kind of neat to be back in the United Center. Some very special things happened here for me.”

[MORE: Johnny Oduya reflects on time with Blackhawks in Chicago return]

Sharp was a cap casualty this past summer, but his transition to the Stars has been a good one thus far. Still, he spent 10 years with the Blackhawks, winning three Stanley Cups with them. It’s been just a little over three months since he hoisted that third Cup. So it was no surprise that the memories came flooding back.

“Probably just landing in Chicago and driving in. I haven’t been here since the week after we won,” Sharp said when asked the hardest moment on Saturday. “I mentioned it kind of feels like home, so it was a little difficult. Feeling yourself out to start the game was a little weird. But as the game went on it was just another hockey game. I play for the Stars now.”

Seeing Sharp in white and green on Saturday night was likely an adjustment for the United Center crowd. His ex-teammates had to take a few minutes to get used to it, too.

“Yeah, it was a little weird,” Marian Hossa said. “I met Sharpie and Johnny (Oduya) in the hallway [before the game], wearing a different sweater already. You hate seeing great guys leaving but on the other hand, it’s part of the business. It’s tough to see.”

[RELATED: Bryan Bickell ready to heed waiver wake-up call]

As much as the Blackhawks had a warm welcome for him before and after the game, they played Sharp like any other opponent during it. Sharp still got off a good number of shots, as always – he led the Stars with five. He was near Jonathan Toews not long after the Blackhawks captain took a slash from Stars defenseman Alex Goligoski.

So, any words exchanged there?

“No, that was not going to happen,” Sharp said.

Sharp dealt with the myriad of emotions on Saturday. Chicago will always be special for him. But the present is pretty nice, too.

“They’ve done a great job of welcoming my family and myself. We’re all moved in, ready to start the season,” Sharp said of the Stars. “I’m feeling good about hockey, feeling good about life away from the rink, and ready to go.”

[NBC SHOP: Gear up for the 2015-16 Blackhawks season!]

BRIEFLY

— Corey Crawford was supposed to play the entire game on Saturday but Scott Darling replaced him near the halfway point of the second period. Coach Joel Quenneville said Crawford “felt he was a little tight,” and he was pulled for precautionary reasons. Quenneville added it was nothing serious – “we don’t expect him to miss a day.”

— Artemi Panarin had a nice preseason debut, recording two primary assists in the Blackhawks’ victory. Quenneville also liked the combination of Panarin, Artem Anisimov and Patrick Kane – “there’s something there,” he said.

— Michal Rozsival be placed on long-term injured reserve “could happen,” Quenneville said. The defenseman, who’s coming off that fractured left ankle he suffered in May, hasn’t practiced with the team yet. A player on LTIR would be unavailable for 24 days and 10 games.

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!