Blackhawks

Blackhawks' Ryan Hartman steps up when challenged, scores first career NHL goal

Blackhawks' Ryan Hartman steps up when challenged, scores first career NHL goal

When Andrew Shaw got traded to the Montreal Canadiens over the offseason, all eyes shifted to Ryan Hartman as the favorite to replace the scrappy forward who made a living in front of the net and getting under opponent's skin.

Perhaps part of the reason he was viewed as a strong candidate for that role was when Hartman introduced himself to the National Hockey League in February of 2015 seconds into his first shift by laying a huge hit on New Jersey Devils forward Daniel Zubrus, showing the Blackhawks the type of edge he brings.

In Wednesday's season opener though, Hartman made an impact on the scoresheet on a bizarre sequence.

In a 1-1 tie towards the latter stages of the second period, Hartman's stick was knocked out of his hands in the neutral zone and slid towards the blue line, where rookie Tyler Motte was carrying the puck into St. Louis Blues territory before tripping over it. 

Hartman quickly skated to it and picked it back up, kept the puck in the zone immediately after on an errant pass by Robert Bortuzzo, fired a half-slapper on net that missed by a few inches, then skated to the blue paint where Motte somehow fed him a pass and Hartman's ensuing shot snuck past Blues goaltender Jake Allen's five-hole for his first career NHL goal and Motte's first career point.

"It's a really good feeling," Hartman said following a 5-2 loss in front of 21,729 fans at the United Center, a handful of which were his family members. "It's something you dream about your whole life. Obviously you wish you got a win out of it, kind of takes away from it a little bit, but I'm pretty excited to get that out of the way and moving forward hopefully get some more here."

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

It was the second consecutive season a Blackhawks player scored his first career NHL goal in the season opener with Artemi Panarin doing the same against the New York Rangers last October.

It couldn't have come at a better time for the Blackhawks, who had recorded only three shots on goal in the period. 

"It certainly put us in a great spot," Joel Quenneville said. "We weren't going very well at that moment. It was a funny shift and we ended up getting a break and scoring so it was a momentum-changer for us. Those guys have done some good things for us throughout camp and we feel these guys need to play and get better as we go along here."

It also came shortly after Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews challenged his line on the bench to get things going after a dull period.

"I told Hartzy to go get a big shift there and he responded," Toews said. "It was good to see that, those two guys respond."

Hartman, who had one assist in eight career games entering the 2016-17 season, was one of six rookies in the Blackhawks' lineup, and is among them trying to earn more ice time.

He recorded just over eight and a half minutes in his season debut, but making the most of it is how you get rewarded with more and earn the trust of the coaching staff, and he did just that on Wednesday.

"You usually don't really think about it too much, but yeah it gets it out of the way and makes it one less thing to worry about I guess," Hartman said. "Now it's just hockey and go out there and play."

Blackhawks make it official: Corey Crawford is back

Blackhawks make it official: Corey Crawford is back

He’s back.

Corey Crawford was officially activated from injured reserve on Thursday and will start in goal for the first time since Dec. 23, 2017 when the Blackhawks host the Arizona Coyotes.

"It’s exciting," coach Joel Quenneville said. "I’m sure he’s looking forward to it and we’re all excited about it as well. It’ll be a fun situation for the guys, seeing him back in the net as well. So we’re looking for everyone to be excited about tonight’s game."

The two-time Stanley Cup champion was medically cleared to practice from his concussion on Oct. 1, but the Blackhawks wanted to give Crawford as much time as he needed to get his conditioning and puck-tracking skills up to game speed before putting him into game action.

"It feels good to be back to myself," Crawford said on Wednesday. "I'm feeling good, I'm feeling clear. It was a pretty long process. ... 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."

To make room for Crawford on the 23-man roster, the Blackhawks have assigned forward Luke Johnson to the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League. Brandon Saad, who wore a white healthy scratch jersey all week at practice, will take his spot in the lineup.

For now, the Blackhawks will hang on to Anton Forsberg and carry three goaltenders as insurance as they get ready to start a seven-games-in-11-days stretch.

Crawford was 16-9-2 with a 2.27 goals against average, .929 save percentage and two shutouts in 28 games last season. The Blackhawks were 17-30-8 without him and finished last in the Central Division.

Sports Talk Live Podcast: Is Crawford ready to go?

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USA TODAY

Sports Talk Live Podcast: Is Crawford ready to go?

Jimmy Greenfield, Connor McKnight, and Matt Spiegel join Kap on the panel to discuss Corey Crawford back on the ice for the first time in 10 months. The Bears have good news when it comes to Khalil Mack, who injured his ankle against the Dolphins.

Plus, Fred Hoiberg announces that Jabari Parker is coming off the bench for the season opener.

Listen to the full episode here or via the embedded player below: