Blackhawks

It's official: Blackhawks, Blues to clash in 2017 Winter Classic

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It's official: Blackhawks, Blues to clash in 2017 Winter Classic

ST. LOUIS – The Blackhawks have proven to be a popular draw in outdoor games. So it should come as no surprise that they’ll be playing in another one.

The Blackhawks will face the St. Louis Blues in the 2017 NHL Winter Classic, which will be held at Busch Stadium on Jan. 2. This will be the first time the Blues have hosted an outdoor game. The Blackhawks, meanwhile, will play in their fifth outdoor game. They’ve hosted two – at Wrigley Field in 2009 and at Soldier Field in 2014 – and played two others in Washington in 2015 and in Minnesota last month.

While this experience will be new for many of the Blues, Troy Brouwer has been here before.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans]

“I’ve played in two of them and they’re a lot of fun,” said the former Blackhawks forward, who scored the game-winner for Washington against the Blackhawks in the 2015 Winter Classic. “It’s a big spectacle. There’s a lot to the game and it can kind of take away from the actual game a little bit, just with the whole event of it. But the NHL and the teams that I’ve been on have done a phenomenal job promoting the game, making good hype for the game, hype for the cities, andthen the games themselves are always a lot of fun to play.”

These outdoor games have become a habit for the Blackhawks. But Patrick Kane, talking prior to the game at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, said there’s still a thrill.

“It’s still pretty unusual playing in a game like this. It’s exciting. All of us enjoy it and we know that there’s, I wouldn’t say pressure on us to put on a good show, but we’re expected to be here for reason and… it seems like the NHL wants the Blackhawks in these types of events,” he said. “We try to put on a good show for everyone.”

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!