Blackhawks

Five Things: Joel Quenneville hits impressive milestone

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Five Things: Joel Quenneville hits impressive milestone

MONTREAL — When the Blackhawks came out of the Christmas break, I wrote a story looking ahead to another busy stretch. I wrote that it wasn’t about trying to catch the Dallas Stars. It was just about keeping pace in the Central Division.

Yeah, about that.

Thanks to their 2-1 victory over the Montreal Canadiens, the Blackhawks have now won nine in a row and have 62 points, just like those first-place Dallas Stars. Credit where it’s due: The Blackhawks have been winning in every way possible and taking advantage of Central opponents who have been up and down since the break.

It’s going to be one hell of a stretch run. But that’s enough of the big-picture stuff. For now, let’s look at the Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ victory over Montreal.

1. Congratulations to Joel Quenneville, part deux. With Thursday’s victory, Quenneville is the NHL’s second all-time winningest coach. It’s his and his alone, his 783rd victory helping him surpass the late Al Arbour. Quenneville said following the game that he spent his latter playing days working as a retail broker and, “getting ready for the real job.” Choosing to stay in the game has worked out pretty well.

2. Corey Crawford does it again. During the third period on Thursday, one of the TV cameras caught Crawford smiling during a time out. You could see why with his performance. With plenty of family and friends at the Bell Centre, Crawford didn’t disappoint. He made some hair-raising saves in the process, making sure the 2-1 lead the Blackhawks gained 13 minutes into the game stood.

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3. Fourth line contributes again. The Blackhawks needed their fourth line to play more minutes, to spend more time in their opponents’ offensive zone. Any points it could add were gravy. On Thursday that line supplied the game-winning goal, thanks to Ryan Garbutt. The lines are looking more balanced. Said Garbutt of the fourth line, “we have to have good starts and chip in a little bit, if not offensively, work the puck in their zone, be physical and do things good fourth lines do in this league. When we do stuff like that, it definitely makes the game more fun.”

4. Marian Hossa is OK. Hossa was bloodied when Alex Galchenyuk, following through on a shot, caught Hossa in the face with his stick. Hossa went to the locker room and got repairs before returning to the game with about seven minutes remaining. He joins Jonathan Toews as a top liner with a sliced lip.

5. Top line is starting to sizzle. It took a while, but the first line is on a roll now. Andrew Shaw set up Toews’ 17th of the season tonight, and the trio had a few more chances throughout the game. As Quenneville said, “that line’s been dangerous.” 

Blackhawks make it official: Corey Crawford is back

Blackhawks make it official: Corey Crawford is back

He’s back.

Corey Crawford was officially activated from injured reserve on Thursday and will start in goal for the first time since Dec. 23, 2017 when the Blackhawks host the Arizona Coyotes.

"It’s exciting," coach Joel Quenneville said. "I’m sure he’s looking forward to it and we’re all excited about it as well. It’ll be a fun situation for the guys, seeing him back in the net as well. So we’re looking for everyone to be excited about tonight’s game."

The two-time Stanley Cup champion was medically cleared to practice from his concussion on Oct. 1, but the Blackhawks wanted to give Crawford as much time as he needed to get his conditioning and puck-tracking skills up to game speed before putting him into game action.

"It feels good to be back to myself," Crawford said on Wednesday. "I'm feeling good, I'm feeling clear. It was a pretty long process. ... 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."

To make room for Crawford on the 23-man roster, the Blackhawks have assigned forward Luke Johnson to the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League. Brandon Saad, who wore a white healthy scratch jersey all week at practice, will take his spot in the lineup.

For now, the Blackhawks will hang on to Anton Forsberg and carry three goaltenders as insurance as they get ready to start a seven-games-in-11-days stretch.

Crawford was 16-9-2 with a 2.27 goals against average, .929 save percentage and two shutouts in 28 games last season. The Blackhawks were 17-30-8 without him and finished last in the Central Division.

Sports Talk Live Podcast: Is Crawford ready to go?

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USA TODAY

Sports Talk Live Podcast: Is Crawford ready to go?

Jimmy Greenfield, Connor McKnight, and Matt Spiegel join Kap on the panel to discuss Corey Crawford back on the ice for the first time in 10 months. The Bears have good news when it comes to Khalil Mack, who injured his ankle against the Dolphins.

Plus, Fred Hoiberg announces that Jabari Parker is coming off the bench for the season opener.

Listen to the full episode here or via the embedded player below: