Duncan Keith has two assists in preseason debut, Blackhawks best Red Wings

Duncan Keith has two assists in preseason debut, Blackhawks best Red Wings

Duncan Keith has been careful this preseason, sticking with just one practice when the Blackhawks were having two per day earlier in training camp and biding his time until the staff deemed him ready to play.

He was pronounced ready for Tuesday’s game against the Detroit Red Wings, and he looked it.

Keith had two assists and Richard Panik scored the team’s first power-play goal of the preseason as the Blackhawks beat the Red Wings 6-1 at the United Center. Keith had wanted to get into at least one or two preseason games to get his timing back and see where his stamina was. He said he felt like himself, “right away.”

“Lots of energy before the game and it’d been awhile since I played last,” said Keith, who played just under 20 minutes. “So, I was excited to get back out there and get in front of the crowd again and play in a real game.”

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Alexandre Fortin had a goal and an assist and Nick Schmaltz and Artem Anisimov also scored. Brian Campbell had two assists. Corey Crawford played the first half of the game, stopping all eight shots he saw. Scott Darling finished it, stopping nine of 10 shots.

Vinnie Hinostroza also got his first goal of the preseason when Andrew Desjardins’ shot went off him and past Jimmy Howard. Hinostroza, who was at left wing in this game, said he felt much better there.

“I think every game, I get a little bit more comfortable,” said Hinostroza. “First shift hit the post and finally got a lucky bounce there, but it felt good to get a goal. It was fun. It was a good night.”

As for Keith and how ready he’ll be for the regular-season opener next week, he considered himself “ready to roll.” Coach Joel Quenneville said Keith looked like, well, Keith.

“Solid, good gap, good play recognition, patience and certainly didn’t look like he missed too much time,” Quenneville said. “Our [defensive] group as a whole was real solid, whether gap or play recognition or puck movement tonight. Good addition with him helping manage about the same kind of ice time. He really defended well.”

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


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!