Blackhawks

As expected, Patrick Kane ready to go for Blackhawks in Game 1

patrickkaneslideinsider.png

As expected, Patrick Kane ready to go for Blackhawks in Game 1

The clearance came on Monday afternoon. The foregone conclusion came on Tuesday. Patrick Kane is good to go for Game 1.

Kane will play on Wednesday night when the Blackhawks face the Nashville Predators in the opener of their first-round series. It wasn’t a big surprise to get the confirmation, given everything Kane was doing in Monday’s practice. He was doing the same things on Tuesday, skating with Kris Versteeg and Brad Richards and working on the power play.

“It’s exciting,” said Kane, who missed seven weeks with a fractured left clavicle. “It’s been a long 50 days here, so it’s a credit to a lot of hard work from obviously the doctors and the trainers and just listening to them and trying to heal as fast as possible.”

Kane was originally expected to miss nearly two months, maybe even more, with his injury.

“It wasn’t in the cards knowing we had to get through a round or two before he could even be considered,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “This is a very positive situation for us, knowing what he brings to the table. He was having an MVP-type of season. Getting him back just makes you have so many more options. His versatility in all areas certainly enhances our team.”

[PLAYOFF PRIMER: Blackhawks-Predators Round 1: Who has the edge?]

The Blackhawks head into this series just about completely healthy. Kane was the Blackhawks’ most consistent scorer when he was injured – his 64 points led the NHL at the time. Puck possession should improve again, too. Jonathan Toews said the Blackhawks fared pretty well without him but obviously get a boost with his return.

“Aside from the losses that we went into the end of the season with, I think we were playing good hockey,” Toews said. “We’re confident as a group. We made it this far, played a number of games without our best player and our top scorer. To get him back I think is only going to help us.”

As for the physical game, which is always that much more intense in the postseason, Kane said he’s ready for it. He’ll have to be; there’s no doubt the Predators will be trying to stop Kane with big hits. Kane said he’s as ready as he’ll ever be to absorb the punishment.

“We tested it out a few times, a few different things where guys run into me, guys checking me. I just kind of feel confidence there,” Kane said. “That’s another thing there for my peace of mind, just being confident with where I’m at right now and I’m not thinking about it too much on the ice, because it is in good shape and it is ready to be out there competing.”

[NBC SHOP: Gear up for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Blackhawks fans!]

Still, there’s no way one of his teammates is going to hit him like an opponent would.

“I think that’s what starts everyone, that first shift, getting hit, getting pushed around. Handling that is something of anadjustment here but you can’t formulate that type of a hit until you go out and get hits,” Quenneville said. “It’s something he’ll deal with, adapt and play accordingly.”

Kane has the full green light. He’ll be tested as soon as he comes back by the Predators but he’s confident that he’s healthy and ready to go.

“We’re at the point right now where it’s pretty safe to go out there and try and compete and play. I think that’s important, too, not only for me but for the team, as well. Because I want to feel like I can contribute andproduce when I am back in the lineup,” Kane said. “By no means is it anything that we rushed back. I think you see different players go through this injury. Jason Zucker, I think he came back around the same timetable as I am. I think Brian Campbell in 2010 came back at around five or six weeks. So it’s an injury that can be healed and some people are a little bit more different than others. It’s just kind of my timetable, when I was ready to play.”

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

crawford_usa_today_debut.jpg
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!