Blackhawks

Predators staying 'even keel' after Game 1 loss to Blackhawks

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Predators staying 'even keel' after Game 1 loss to Blackhawks

NASHVILLE – Peter Laviolette has been through enough postseasons to know how it feels the day after a long, arduous playoff game.

“Both teams come into the rink tired,” the Nashville Predators coach said. “One has a smile on its face and one doesn’t.”

The Predators weren’t beaming but they were still in pretty good spirits on Thursday morning, about 12 hours after the Blackhawks scored four unanswered goals to beat them, 4-3, in double overtime. It was a tough outcome for the Predators, who had a 3-0 lead after the first period before Scott Darling stymied them the rest of the way and the Blackhawks found their offense. Now they’ll go for the split at home when they host the Blackhawks in Game 2 on Friday night.

[MORE HAWKS: Patrick Kane brings big boost to Blackhawks' power play]

Despite the loss the Predators were pretty happy with their game. They fired 42 shots on Darling, who took over in the second period after Corey Crawford was pulled. They had some great scoring opportunities. They had the crowd decidedly on their side.

The question now is, how do the Predators respond from this? The Blackhawks have been down this unpredictable playoff path before; you have good games, bad games, crushing games and endurance-testing games. They’ve handled adversity well, as evidence by their last few postseasons. The Predators are now getting their playoff mettle tested and know they need to grab Game 2.

“You don’t want to give up those first two games, especially at home,” said Colin Wilson, who scored two of the Predators’ first period goals in Game 1. “We’ll see if tomorrow is different.”

[NBC SPORTS SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

The Blackhawks always talk of not getting too high or low emotionally this time of year. Pekka Rinne, who’s gone through several postseasons with the Predators, echoed that sentiment.

“It’s one game. You have to stay even keel,” he said. “It’s Game 1; it’s a long postseason. We’ve worked so hard to get into this situation. You have another opportunity. You can’t let it slip right now. Just focus and take the good out of Game 1.”

The Predators weren’t smiling as much as they would have had they won Game 1. That’s behind them. It has to be, or they could be facing a steeper challenge, and an 0-2 deficit, heading into Chicago.

“One game usually has nothing to do with what happened with two days ago or four days ago or Game 1 going to Game 7. Every game has its own identity,” Laviolette. “You have to get yourself ready to play mentally, physically, the grind of it. Our guys will be ready. They’ve proven all year they’re a competitive group. We’ll be ready to play.”

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

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USA TODAY

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. ... 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!