Blackhawks

Blackhawks: Who will step up in Marian Hossa's absence?

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Blackhawks: Who will step up in Marian Hossa's absence?

During the first couple months of the season, the Blackhawks auditioned multiple players for that top-line left winger to complement Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa.

Andrew Shaw seized that opportunity in December and hasn't looked back since.

Now, the Blackhawks will need someone else to step up, the same way Shaw did, in Hossa's absence after he left Saturday's game against the Anaheim Ducks early due to an apparent left leg injury that was officially described as a lower-body injury. Coach Joel Quenneville sounded optimistic that the injury wouldn't keep him out long-term, but admitted Hossa "could miss some time."

The door has sprung open, but it won't be easy shoes to fill.

"Important minutes, special teams, quality ice time," Quenneville said of Hossa's impact on the ice. "You definitely miss (Hossa) playing the right way, but (it) definitely creates some opportunities for some guys that haven't done much recently that should look forward to getting a great chance."

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Reading between the lines, the immediate player that comes to mind is Teuvo Teravainen, who was demoted to the fourth line on Saturday night.

Whether it was a tactic to exploit matchups or send a message is unknown, but perhaps it was made more clear following Quenneville's postgame press conference when he didn't hesitate to respond whether Teravainen would get the first crack at an expanded roll as Hossa's fill-in on the first line.

"Well, the opportunity's been there," a seemingly frustrated Quenneville said. "Just grab it."

When Teravainen is on the ice with Toews, the Blackhawks control 52.5 percent of even-strength shot attempts, according to hockeyanalysis.com. When Teravainen is apart from Toews, that number slips to 50.8 percent. Still solid, but the possession numbers increase when they're together, which means the drop-off shouldn't be too significant if that's the direction they choose to go — although Hossa certainly has had a hand in those numbers playing across from Teravainen.

On top of that, Teravainen would be slotted in at right wing, a position he's been more comfortable in, rather than left wing on the top unit, where he's had the chance to play previously.

[MORE: Blackhawks lose Marian Hossa in OT loss to Ducks]

But it's Hossa's ability to impact the game on a nightly basis that will be difficult to replace.

"Just his consistency," Toews said when asked about Hossa's leadership on and off the ice. "I think you've seen him, he's working his tail off all year, maybe not getting the results he wants to offensively but he's still there taking up minutes, killing penalties, filling in on the power play, playing against top lines and top defensemen all the time.

"Sometimes even if he's not scoring the way he knows he can, you don't realize how much you'll miss a guy like that until he's not in your lineup."

Even before Hossa's injury, acquiring a top-six forward has been a hot topic of discussion as the Blackhawks approach the trade deadline on Feb. 29. An emergence from Teravainen would help lessen the blow of Hossa, and it also might earn himself a permanent spot somewhere in the top-six spot if he takes advantage of that opportunity.

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

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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

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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!