Lightning goalie situation up in the air heading into Game 3


Lightning goalie situation up in the air heading into Game 3

Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper was asked the inevitable question on Sunday, not long after he and the Lightning arrived in Chicago.

Know who your starting goaltender is for Game 3 against the Blackhawks?

“No, I don't, which would tell you, if I don't know, that Bish could be available,” Cooper said, referring to Ben Bishop, who started, but didn’t finish, Game 2 on Saturday night. “You'll have a better indication, I guess, tomorrow at the skate. Although our morning skates are all optional anyway; Bish, notoriously, he goes on sometimes during [optional skates] and sometimes he doesn’t. I’m sure you’ll get a clue then tomorrow.”

We’ll all get that clue at some point on Monday, although it may not be until game time. Will the starter be Bishop, who came out of the game, returned, then came out again for good in the third period on Saturday night? Or will it be backup Andrei Vasilevskiy, who came in relief of Bishop, stopped five shots and got the victory because he was in net when Jason Garrison scored the game-winning goal?

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

“Yeah, we're not sure. “If we were, probably wouldn't tell you anyway,” Steven Stamkos said to laughs. “About Vasi, we have full confidence in him. I know a lot of us talked about it last night after the game.”

The Lightning talked of having faith in either of their goaltenders much like the Blackhawks did in the first round, when a struggling Corey Crawford was replaced by Scott Darling, who played well, before Crawford regained the net. It’s still a mystery what’s ailing Bishop. TVA Sports reported Bishop suffered a knee injury. Illness and dehydration were also possible issues.

[ALSO: Could Q separate Toews, Kane in Game 3?]

The Blackhawks aren’t too familiar with Vasilevskiy; Teuvo Teravainen knows the Russian goaltender some from international play.

“I think I've scored on him before, too,” said Teravainen with a smile. “I know they're [both] good goalies.”

Who’s starting in net for the Lightning? At the moment, we haven’t a clue. The Blackhawks don’t know either, but it won’t alter their game. They still want to get plenty of shots on him, still want to crash the net, still want to capitalize on rebounds.

“I think you approach any goalie the same way,” Brent Seabrook said. “[Vasilevskiy] played great for them the last, I don't know, five or six minutes the last game. You want to try to continue to get pucks and bodies at the net, make it tough for him to see. Get traffic. That's pretty much what you want to try to do.”

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


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


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!