Blackhawks

Corey Crawford returns, Jonathan Toews sits vs. Blue Jackets

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Corey Crawford returns, Jonathan Toews sits vs. Blue Jackets

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Corey Crawford will play but Jonathan Toews and Niklas Hjalmarsson won’t when the Blackhawks play their regular-season finale against the Columbus Blue Jackets Saturday night.

Coach Joel Quenneville said Toews and Hjalmarsson are “likely” to not play, which pretty much means they’re not playing. Also not playing are Duncan Keith (suspension), Marian Hossa (lower body), Andrew Shaw and Artem Anisimov (both upper body).

Crawford will be making his first start since March 14; he’s been out with an upper-body injury since.

[MORE HAWKS: Five Things to watch for in Blackhawks' regular-season finale]

“It’s great for the goalie, getting action in front of you, getting that pace, getting comfortable again seeing pucks and the speed of the game,” Quenneville said. “It’s very important getting a game in here before the playoffs start.”

Bryan Bickell, who struggled with vertigo at the end of last season and again earlier this season, said he texted Crawford regularly when he was out.

“I know it’s frustrating at times where it’s something that seems little but it doesn’t seem right. I told him that I was in a similar situation and it’s frustrating but to stick with it,” Bickell said. “I know he’ll bounce back today and feel good to play. Hopefully we’ll keep him healthy going on this run.”

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The Blackhawks are facing a Columbus team that was eliminated from the playoffs some time ago. They’ll also face former teammate Brandon Saad, who reached 30 goals for the first time in his career in the Blue Jackets’ 4-1 victory over Buffalo on Friday. While the Blackhawks will be missing a few regulars from the lineup, Quenneville said the goal doesn’t change.

“It’s a game where everything’s settled except we could put those [points] in the bank, which would be nice,” he said. “I think we’ll do the right things, try to play accordingly and give ourselves a chance.”

Hawks Talk Podcast: Crawford's return, Saad's demotion and power play concerns

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USA TODAY

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!

10 years with 'Coach Q' anything but ordinary

10 years with 'Coach Q' anything but ordinary

Over the last 10 years, the words “ordinary” and "OK" have taken on a new meaning to Blackhawks players and fans alike. 

That’s “Coach Q” speak. 

A language where “ordinary” means awful and “just OK” means you were a non-factor. The good news is the last 10 seasons under Joel Quenneville have been anything but ordinary at the United Center. 

On Oct. 16th, 2008, the Blackhawks let go of fan-favorite Denis Savard after a 1-2-1 start to the season and named Quenneville as head coach in his place. Quenneville coached the Colorado Avalanche the previous season, but after another disappointing exit in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the two mutually parted ways. He had originally planned to stay away from the bench for at least a season, but the Blackhawks triumvirate of Rocky Wirtz, John McDonough and then-GM Dale Tallon brought Quenneville on as a scout and then handed him the keys to the car shortly after.

“Dale’s obligation is to put together a winning team,” said McDonough at Quenneville’s introductory press conference. “At this point, Joel is the coach of that team.”

It was an emotional day at the Blackhawks offices. Savard – a Blackhawks legend on the ice and a coach the players held in high regard – was let go just as things started to turn upwards for the organization. The end of the 2007-2008 season saw the Blackhawks once again miss out on the playoffs, but the fans began to flock to the United Center once more, and the hype train around the young team built around Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane was gaining steam.

“Moving forward, if we want to be a championship-caliber organization, we have to make tough decisions,” said Tallon. “This was the toughest decision I’ve ever had to make.” 

Savard was 65-66-16 in parts of three seasons as head coach of the Blackhawks. Meanwhile, Quenneville had compiled eight 95+ point seasons behind the bench for the Blues and Avalanche in his 11 years as a head coach.

“We felt the experience and the track record of Joel would be a balance that we needed with a young, inexperienced team,” said Tallon. "Joel brings us a wealth of experience and a winning track record that will have an immediate and lasting impact."

The gamble paid off for the Blackhawks in a major way. Once Quenneville took over, the team got to the sought-after next level. 

They finished the 08-09 season with 104 points, third-most in the NHL’s Western Conference, had a franchise-record setting 9-game win streak in the month of December and returned to the playoffs for the first time since the 2001-2002 season. The “young and inexperienced” Blackhawks took the league by storm, dropping the Calgary Flames in the first round of the playoffs in six games before taking down the rival Canucks in the next round.

They ultimately lost out to the Detroit Red Wings in the Western Conference Finals, but the bar was now set for the organization. From then on, the Blackhawks were Stanley Cup contenders. 

Quenneville currently ranks 2nd in franchise history with 449 wins, trailing only Billy Reay’s 516. 

But most importantly, Quenneville’s 76 playoff wins rank at the top in the organization’s long and storied history, and those three Stanley Cups that he’s raised over his head were anything but “ordinary.”