Richard Panik settling into Blackhawks' lineup


Richard Panik settling into Blackhawks' lineup

Richard Panik experienced some interesting timing extremes when he was traded.

Thanks to visa issues, it took him more than a week to join the Blackhawks, who acquired him from the Toronto Maple Leafs in early January. Then the day after he got to Chicago he went from expected healthy scratch, to get time to get acclimated to his new team, to starter when Artem Anisimov fell ill.

It was quite the crazy introduction with the Blackhawks. And in this case, that may not have been so bad.

“I was thinking the last time about it: maybe it was a good thing. I wasn’t stressed,” Panik said about his Blackhawks debut against the Predators on Tuesday. “I just got here in 15 minutes before the game, changed and played hockey. I was a little tired but we won the game, so nothing else matters.”

Panik got through that first game just fine despite arriving at 7:15 p.m. that night, changing and stretching quickly and playing in the Blackhawks’ 3-2 victory over the Predators. One week later Panik is feeling a lot more comfortable. Panik scored his first goal with the Blackhawks in Sunday night’s 5-2 victory over the Montreal Canadiens. And his joining the fourth line with Dennis Rasmussen and Ryan Garbutt has brought balance to that group, as well as improved the team’s four-line rotation.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

“He’s been all right,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “He didn’t play a ton but he gives us some quickness, handles the puck pretty well and he’s getting comfortable with how he has to move around the rink as far as our system goes. That line’s been useful as far as they’ve been in the offensive zone, had some good attack. So watching him in practice here, he has some skill as well.”

Panik started this season looking to be part of the Maple Leafs’ roster. He was coming off a solid season with Toronto, recording 11 goals and six assists in 2014-15. But when the Leafs picked up defenseman Frank Corrado off waivers in October, Panik was placed on waivers. He played 33 games for the Toronto Marlies, the Leafs’ AHL affiliate. Panik saw his former team on Friday, when the Blackhawks beat them 4-1. He said it was still a little strange seeing the Leafs again so soon.

[MORE: Five things from Blackhawks-Canadiens]

“It felt weird, just sitting on the other side. But it was good to be back,” Panik said. “I’m thankful for what Toronto gave me last season. Now I’m here, focusing on this team and this season and really excited to be here.”

Panik’s arrival in Chicago took longer than expected. His first game with the Blackhawks happened sooner than expected. Thanks to a busy playing schedule Panik hasn’t really gotten settled here in Chicago yet – he’ll do that during the all-star break later this month.  On the ice, however, it looks like Panik is settling in just fine.

“We’re winning, so it always feels good,” Panik said. “My game, I have to try to play it. I’m still learning the new system and everything, so I’m just trying to play a simple game and don’t make any mistakes. I’m just going to focus on that.”

Blackhawks make it official: Corey Crawford is back

Blackhawks make it official: Corey Crawford is back

He’s back.

Corey Crawford will start in goal for the first time since Dec. 23, 2017 when the Blackhawks host the Arizona Coyotes, coach Joel Quenneville confirmed after morning skate on Thursday morning.

"It’s exciting," 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 will assign 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?


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: