Blackhawks

Marko Dano takes advantage of 'lottery' line opportunity

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Marko Dano takes advantage of 'lottery' line opportunity

Marko Dano got a big smile on his face when talking about his linemates. The new kid in town drew Marian Hossa and Jonathan Toews.

“I was thinking this is going to be fun,” Dano said with a laugh. “They’re great players and there’s a lot I can learn from them, so I’m real excited about being on a line with them.”

It was a pretty nice start for Dano, whose weekend included three goals in one scrimmage.  

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As one of the players acquired from Columbus for Brandon Saad, it’s fitting that, at least for now, Dano is taking Saad’s place on the top line. As coach Joel Quenneville quipped, “that’s the lottery spot when you get to play on that line.” Dano’s usually a right wing but he doesn’t mind playing on the left, and Quenneville said Dano’s skills are evident.

“Watching him in practice prior to getting on the ice I noticed his quickness, I know he had a little pace to him,” Quenneville said. “He’s definitely got some size. He doesn’t look like he’s that big but he’s powerful. He may be low in stature but he’s thick and he’s big and he’s got some strength in the puck area.”

For Dano, the chance to learn from Toews and Hossa, especially Hossa – Dano’s father played with Hossa many years ago, and the two live in the same city in Slovakia – is gratifying. Nevertheless, there is a daunting quality joining two of the best players in the league.

“It’s a little bit hard from the beginning, but with every practice, with every scrimmage it’s coming easier,” Dano said on Saturday. “We started today like yesterday [we] were a little bit struggling with looking at each other on the ice. We were trying to find ourselves. But today we saw each other a little bit better and we had a couple points out there.”

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So this combination could work?

“I don’t see why not,” Toews said. “He’s a good young player, big and strong, and he has a good shot. Obviously there’s a lot of potential there. You make sure he’s comfortable so he doesn’t have to think too much. I can imagine what it’s like to come in and play with a couple of top-line guys. My mentality, if I were in that position, would be to think about getting the two players the puck all the time; got to reassure him to just keep thinking about making the right play and if he does that, he’ll be fine. Combinations can change, but it’s exciting to see what can happen in that regard.”

Dano got off to a great start, getting a chance on the top line and getting a few goals. Sure, those goals were early training camp goals. But for a player trying to adjust to a new team, systems and linemates, you take every positive.

“With every goal that we score on the ice, it doesn’t matter if it’s a scrimmage or preseason game, the confidence is going higher and also the chemistry,” Dano said. “It’s a good thing we can score goals from the beginning of the season and [we’ve] just got to work hard and keep going.”

Blackhawks make it official: Corey Crawford is back

Blackhawks make it official: Corey Crawford is back

He’s back.

Corey Crawford was officially activated from injured reserve on Thursday and will start in goal for the first time since Dec. 23, 2017 when the Blackhawks host the Arizona Coyotes.

"It’s exciting," coach Joel Quenneville said. "I’m sure he’s looking forward to it and we’re all excited about it as well. It’ll be a fun situation for the guys, seeing him back in the net as well. So we’re looking for everyone to be excited about tonight’s game."

The two-time Stanley Cup champion was medically cleared to practice from his concussion on Oct. 1, but the Blackhawks wanted to give Crawford as much time as he needed to get his conditioning and puck-tracking skills up to game speed before putting him into game action.

"It feels good to be back to myself," Crawford said on Wednesday. "I'm feeling good, I'm feeling clear. It was a pretty long process. ... 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."

To make room for Crawford on the 23-man roster, the Blackhawks have assigned forward Luke Johnson to the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League. Brandon Saad, who wore a white healthy scratch jersey all week at practice, will take his spot in the lineup.

For now, the Blackhawks will hang on to Anton Forsberg and carry three goaltenders as insurance as they get ready to start a seven-games-in-11-days stretch.

Crawford was 16-9-2 with a 2.27 goals against average, .929 save percentage and two shutouts in 28 games last season. The Blackhawks were 17-30-8 without him and finished last in the Central Division.

Sports Talk Live Podcast: Is Crawford ready to go?

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USA TODAY

Sports Talk Live Podcast: Is Crawford ready to go?

Jimmy Greenfield, Connor McKnight, and Matt Spiegel join Kap on the panel to discuss Corey Crawford back on the ice for the first time in 10 months. The Bears have good news when it comes to Khalil Mack, who injured his ankle against the Dolphins.

Plus, Fred Hoiberg announces that Jabari Parker is coming off the bench for the season opener.

Listen to the full episode here or via the embedded player below: