Blackhawks

Phillip Danault gets his chance again with Blackhawks

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Phillip Danault gets his chance again with Blackhawks

Phillip Danault got a taste of a Stanley Cup run last season with the Blackhawks.

The 22-year-old center was one of the Black Aces here through the postseason run. He saw what the Blackhawks did once again. He knew there would be roster changes with the salary-cap crunch. And he knew he had a great opportunity to make the lineup out of training camp.

But Danault’s plans were derailed in August, when he needed hip surgery four months to heal from it. But instead of letting that frustrate him, Danault used his time and attitude wisely. Now, with another teammate facing a four-month recovery, Danault is getting his chance.

Danault made a good impression on coach Joel Quenneville and the Blackhawks in two games last season, and he’s doing it again in his current stint. Danault was recalled last weekend after the Blackhawks lost Marcus Kruger to a dislocated wrist — Kruger’s surgery and recovery will keep him out until probably the postseason. So who better to call up than the guy the Blackhawks have been grooming as, perhaps, the next Kruger?

“You know, they’ve been telling me they want me to be Kruger the last two years in the AHL, so I kind of modeled my game on his,” said Danault, referring to the Rockford IceHogs. “He got hurt and I got lucky to be called up. I have a big opportunity here. I want to show everyone I can do it.”

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Ryan Garbutt said he noticed how much Danault was like Kruger immediately.

“It was a little bit eerie the way he plays so similar to Krugs. He does all the small things really well,” Garbutt said. “He’s good on face-offs, fast, really good with the stick and I think Q trusts him out there.”

Quenneville’s trust in Danault was evident on Tuesday night, when he put Danault and fourth-line mates Andrew Desjardins and Garbutt against the Stars’ top line of Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin and Patrick Sharp through the first two periods. Danault and the line did its job, keeping all three off the score sheet through the first 40 minutes — Sharp had an assist at the time, but it was off a power-play goal. Quenneville was happy with that line’s work on Tuesday, and figured Danault, even with his setback, would be up here at some point.

“We feel, [with] him improving that he’d find a way to get here because we think the way he works, the way he competes, his mindset,” Quenneville said recently. “He gives you energy in your team game; production-wise, the expectations aren’t that high. But at the same time, playing the right way is what we think he can do. And kind of the way we have certain players in our lineup that can kill penalties and check and have the puck and be supportive in that area, so we projected him to keep on this path, that he’d find a way to get here.”

[SHOP BLACKHAWKS: Get your copy of the One Goal III book]

Danault had hoped to be here sooner. But after getting a deeper MRI on an issue that had been bothering him, results showed he had a torn labrum. On Aug. 17 he had surgery and spent the next several months recovering. It was a bitter pill to swallow at the time.

“It was very tough, especially because they just won the Cup and I was part of it as a Black Ace. I tasted a little bit of what it was and I really wanted to be an NHL player right away. But obviously one step back sometimes is good.” Danault said. “You go back, think about your game mentally and get stronger. Those little details get you stronger on and off the ice. I’m happy with my situation right now.”

[MORE: Blackhawks in good shape heading into Christmas break]

Danault waited a few years for a chance at the start of this season. Then he had to wait a few months more. It wasn’t always easy, but Danault is getting his chance now and he’s looking to make the most of it.

“When you start right away it’s good for your confidence and you’re happy and playing in the NHL is obviously the dream for you. But the last few years were very helpful for me,” Danault said. “I had to learn the system, how it works as a pro. Even just to cook by yourself or with the boys [in Rockford]. I think after those two years I’m more NHL ready.”

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!