Blackhawks

Jiri Sekac debuts, Richard Panik back in for Blackhawks

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Jiri Sekac debuts, Richard Panik back in for Blackhawks

SUNRISE, Fla. – Jiri Sekac will make his debut with his new team and Richard Panik will be back in the lineup when the Blackhawks face the Florida Panthers Friday night. 

Scott Darling will get the start in net.

The Blackhawks acquired Sekac from the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for Ryan Garbutt on Thursday. Coach Joel Quenneville said Sekac will likely start on that fourth line, but he wasn’t sure if he’d be left or right wing.

Panik is back in after being benched on Thursday night against the Tampa Bay Lightning. The forward, acquired earlier this month by the Blackhawks, overslept morning skate.

[MORE HAWKS: Blackhawks winning streak snapped with loss to Lightning]

“We were staying like 30 minutes away, so I woke up at 11 [a.m.] and I knew I’m not going to make it,” Panik said. “It was terrifying, especially when I’m new on the team. Now I get a chance to play and I’ve got to play good.”

Panik said he understood why he didn’t play.

“It can’t happen,” he said. “I’m a professional athlete and it can’t happen. And like I said, it’s not going to happen again.”

Meanwhile, Sekac had an earlier wake-up call on Thursday: this one let him know he’d been traded to the Blackhawks. Sekac wasn’t expecting to be traded but he’s ready for the opportunity with the Blackhawks.

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“Obviously I’ve seen some Hawks games and the team is very skilled, fast, and they’re all great players. Hopefully I can fit in and be useful for the team,” said Sekac, who also wouldn’t mind latching on with a team for some time. He’s on his third team – Montreal and Anaheim previously – since 2014.

“I think every player is looking for a spot on a team and wants to stay with the same team as long as he can,” he said. “I’m hoping for the same thing.”

Roberto Luongo is expected to start for the Panthers. Former Blackhawks forward Brandon Pirri is expected to be a scratch according to the Panthers media. The Panthers also recalled former Blackhawks defenseman Dylan Olsen earlier today in an emergency situation when Willie Mitchell was placed on injured reserve. 

Corey Crawford expects to make season debut for Blackhawks on Thursday vs. Arizona

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Corey Crawford expects to make season debut for Blackhawks on Thursday vs. Arizona

The wait is almost over.

After missing nearly 10 months with a concussion, Corey Crawford said he expects to start on Thursday when the Blackhawks take on the Arizona Coyotes at the United Center. An official decision will come following the team's morning skate.

"It feels good to be back to myself," Crawford said. "I'm feeling good, I'm feeling clear. ... It was a pretty long process. But I think the most important thing was not to rush anything. When I finally was out, it got to a point where I wasn’t in shape to play and it was time to rest and it’s unfortunate it took a lot longer than I would’ve liked. 

"It’s been long, but finally, just to get back and be practicing with the team has meant a lot. It’s good to get to this point now when you’re really close to playing. 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."

Crawford's last appearance in an NHL game was Dec. 23, 2017 against the New Jersey Devils when he allowed three goals on seven shots in 13:22 of action before getting pulled. So of course, emotions will naturally be running high, especially in front of the hometown crowd.

"I'm sure I'll be a little anxious getting into it," Crawford said. "Some nerves. But we'll see. We'll wait until the morning, but I'm definitely excited I can tell you that."

It's obviously terrific news for the Blackhawks, who have picked up eight out of a possible 10 points to start the season and are getting their two-time Stanley Cup winning goalie back between the pipes. It's been a long time coming, and Crawford is coming back into a healthy situation where the Blackhawks are in a good spot in the standings.

"It's great news, I'm sure it'll be exciting for him exciting for our team, exciting for our fans and the organization as well," Patrick Kane said. "It’s probably a good situation all around. Cam [Ward] has done a great job of playing in the net so far. Crow is really good in practice right now, so I’m sure he’s itching to get back, too. We’ve had a good start here. It’s something we want to keep going, and I’m sure him coming back on home ice, in front of our crowd, will be a fun one for him and for our team."

There's no doubting how important Crawford is the team and organization. While there may be a little bit of rust early on, the Blackhawks are expecting him to look like his old self.

"He means a lot to the team," Quenneville said. "We felt last year was a good example of how important he was and how well he was playing for us, as well. We’ve gotten off to a decent start and he was a big factor in it. We know that goaltending is such a big part of the team and your success a lot of nights depends on him and his consistency’s always been in place.

"But he looks good in the net. He’s been off for a long, long time. Is there rust? Do we expect rust? I think the way he’s competing and practicing and finding pucks, he looks like he hasn’t missed a beat. So we’re looking forward to him getting in there and getting comfortable and how he’s feeling going forward will dictate a lot of the decisions about him going back in."

Hawks Talk Podcast: Crawford's return, Saad's demotion and power play concerns

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USA TODAY

Hawks Talk Podcast: Crawford's return, Saad's demotion and power play concerns

In the latest Hawks Talk Podcast, Pat Boyle, Charlie Roumeliotis and Slavko Bekovic provide their thoughts on the Blackhawks’ 3-0-2 start.

They also discuss Brandon Saad’s demotion and whether it could serve as a wake-up call, Corey Crawford’s potential return on Thursday vs. Arizona and what could happen with Anton Forsberg because of it, and address the power play concerns.

The guys wrap up the podcast by making a few bold predictions going forward.

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below, and be sure to subscribe, rate us and write a review!