Blackhawks

Kane shines in SO as Hawks gain ground

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Kane shines in SO as Hawks gain ground

ST. PAUL, Minn. The Blackhawks have had a few habits lately. One is playing into overtime or the shootout. The other is their captains propensity to be there in big moments.

Jonathan Toews notched his 300th point on an assist, his 301st on a late regulation goal and then scored the shootout winner in the Blackhawks 4-3 decision over the Minnesota Wild on Wednesday night. It was the third victory in a row for the Blackhawks; they havent been comfortable triumphs, but theyve been triumphs nonetheless.

Weve had a few games that have been going to the end like that, and it kind of builds your confidence if you find a way to win that one, Toews said. We expected it was going to be a tight, hard-fought game that went right to the end. And we found a way to win, so were happy about that.

Toews just about found a way to win it in regulation, as he made a pretty move to the front of the net to beat Niklas Backstrom for a 3-2 advantage early in the third period. But Mikko Koivu scored on a delayed penalty with about five minutes remaining in regulation.

So Toews led off the Blackhawks shootout by beating Backstrom five-hole for the winning shot. Patrick Kane then made a nifty slow-down move to end the Wilds night.

I just slowed down and waited for the goalie to bite, Kane said. I didnt know which way to go. I was ready to bring it back to my backhand or forehand and he bit on the backhand. Pretty good finish.

Ray Emery was in there for another victory, stopping 27 of 30 shots. Coach Joel Quenneville said theyll talk Thursday on whether or not Emery starts Friday against the Anaheim Ducks.

The Blackhawks had a 2-0 lead early in the second period before Kyle Brodziak scored to cut it to 2-1. The Blackhawks were anticipating an icing call on the play that led to Brodziaks goal but didnt get it.

I talked to the official. I appreciate way they saw it, Quenneville said. Its one of those calls you still have to keep playing.

The Blackhawks and Wild had the expected outing: tough, hard-fought, tight. Thats what happens when the top two teams in the West square off, and its likely to continue next season when the two teams are in the same conference.

And right now, the Blackhawks are winning those type of games.

Its kind of tough giving up the lead but seems like a lot of our games have been going to OT or shootout. Its just the way its going to be, Kane said. The NHLs so tight, just have to be ready for it.

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!