Blackhawks

Crawford, Hawks edge Red Wings

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Crawford, Hawks edge Red Wings

The Blackhawks were missing their captain and two defensemen entering their matchup against Detroit, a formidable team to face even in optimum health.

But on a night when the Blackhawks needed the team-first mentality the most, they got it.

Jimmy Hayes and Marcus Kruger scored, and Corey Crawford stopped 31 of 32 shots as the Blackhawks beat the Red Wings 2-1 at the United Center. The Blackhawks have won four in a row and remained in sixth place, three points behind fifth-place Nashville, which beat Vancouver tonight.

Both teams were missing their elite centers. Jonathan Toews is day to day with an upper-body injury for the Blackhawks, while the Wings Pavel Datsyuk is out 2-3 weeks after having knee surgery. And the Blackhawks were still minus defensemen Niklas Hjalmarsson and Steve Montador.

Despite all that, and a 1-0 deficit early in the first period, the Blackhawks got a hard-working game from everyone to hold off the Wings, who had won six in a row coming into Tuesday.

It just shows you, when were all playing together and everybodys doing the little things defensively -- forwards back-checking hard and being better in our own end and defensemen blocking shots it makes everyones job easier.

Offensively, the contributions came from the Blackhawks youngsters. Hayes, who was recalled on Friday, scored his fifth of the season to tie the game midway through the second. Kruger crashed the net barely two minutes into the third for the game-winner, the first of his NHL career.

Hayes last two games are reminiscent of his strong play when he came up the first time this season.

Its just one of those things, being a big guy, youve got to be in front of the net. The shot got through, (there was) some traffic with Bickell there, and it just popped right on my stick there for a nice tap-in, Hayes said. The atmosphere was huge here. It was a big game for both teams, the one we needed to keep this going in the right direction.

And Crawford took care of his part, too, winning his fourth consecutive game. The Blackhawks No. 1 goaltender has allowed just one goal in each of his last three starts. Coach Joel Quenneville called Crawfords outing rock solid.

Hes been awesome the last couple of (games), said Patrick Sharp, who was stymied several times by Detroits Jimmy Howard. Its a tough position: you get credit when you win and take the heat when you lose. But in our locker room I can tell you we believe in him 100 percent. And to see the way hes working away from games, its definitely paying off.

Crawford said he got plenty of help.

The last 10 minutes of that game they had barely any (shots), Crawford said. Its another good game for us to play when were down for most of it. Again and we just keep playing our game, not trying to do too much to get back. Were playing a simple game, making the plays that we should.

The Blackhawks are playing with the pack mentality. They needed to against a team like Detroit. The losing streak is still in the Blackhawks minds, but more victories like this and itll be a distant memory.

Its a big boost (beating the Wings). Theyre in first place for a reason, Sharp said. That (losing) streak was good for us. Were playing a solid team game now, working hard.

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!