Blackhawks

Hawks hope Sharp can make quick return

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Hawks hope Sharp can make quick return

Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Posted: 12:53 p.m. Updated: 3:32 p.m.

By Tracey Myers
CSNChicago.com

Patrick Sharp has arguably been the Chicago Blackhawks most consistent player this season. Now hes sidelined while the Blackhawks try to hold on to a playoff spot.

Sharp is out with a left knee injury and coach Joel Quenneville said the Blackhawks hope to have him back before the end of the regular season. Sharp, who leads the Blackhawks this season with 34 goals, was hurt in a knee-on-knee collision with Phoenix defensemanRostislav Klesla at the end of the first period on Sunday.

He had a noticeable limp when he came out for the Blackhawks team photo prior to Tuesdays practice.

CSN, Blackhawks team up with 'Save of a Lifetime'

We hope to have him back before the end of the regular season, thats where were at right now, Quenneville said. Its not long term, but right now long term is (long enough). He feels better these last couple of days, so well see his progress the next little bit.

The injury could have been worse it couldve been (like) Jordan Hendry, said Quenneville, referring to the defensemans season-ending torn ACL. Still, considering Sharps offensive output this season, the Blackhawks need to hold on in the West and the absence of center Dave Bolland (concussion), its a big hole in the lineup.

Sometimes (injuries) are all at the same time. Weve had stretches this year where its something youre dealing with, Quenneville said. Weve been resilient in a lot of ways and have a group that wants to get it done. Were not going to feel sorry for ourselves. We want to welcome the challenge.

The Blackhawks went through something similar to this in December, when they were without Marian Hossa (lower body) and Patrick Kane (ankle) for most of the month. The Blackhawks went 5-2-1 without the two, including the Dec. 5 victory vs. Calgary in which Kane was hurt 65 seconds into the game.

No one wants to be (injured) but quite a few guys are banged up in every locker room, said defenseman Brian Campbell , whos coming off a foot injury he sustained March 8 against Florida. Hopefully you can just play through them.

The Blackhawks will make adjustments among their forwards. Forward Marcus Kruger, who has played mainly center, is en route to Chicago from Sweden. Kruger had six goals and 29 assists in 52 games in Sweden this season.

Its an opportunity for us to assess him quickly and see how he fits right in. Were missing two important players, he plays center, so well see how that works out, Quenneville said. Hes got real good instincts and that could help quickly.

Viktor Stalberg joined Jonathan Toews and Kane on the top line at Tuesdays practice. Stalberg, who has been strong in recent games, played with the duo earlier this season.

I dont think anyone expects me to replace Sharpie, but Ill try to do everything I can, Stalberg said. (Toews and Kane) are one of the best tandems in the league. Any time you get a chance to be on the ice with them you feel pretty fortunate.

Quenneville said Stalbergs earned the opportunity.

He gives that line some speed; that was noticeable in (Sundays) game and we liked what he provided. When he played with them earlier in the year he did a good job. Hes been more efficient with the puck and hes going to get some high-quality opportunities offensively. Being responsible defensively helps.

Tracey Myers is CSNChicago.com's Blackhawks Insider. Follow Tracey on Twitter @TramyersCSN for up-to-the-minute Hawks information.

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!