Scott Darling “reassures” Blackhawks during Corey Crawford’s absence

Scott Darling “reassures” Blackhawks during Corey Crawford’s absence

Scott Darling had been there and done this not too long ago, albeit not at this pace.

The Blackhawks’ backup goaltender started 11 consecutive games near the end of last season; as he recalled on Friday, “it wasn’t as condensed as this was, though.”

OK, so the 10 consecutive games he just completed wasn’t such a stretch. Still, it was a busy and rather successful stretch. So as a now-healthy Corey Crawford reclaims his net on Friday night against the Colorado Avalanche, the Blackhawks are grateful for the work Scott Darling did in Crawford’s absence.

“It reassures our team a whole heck of a lot. I think we’ve always known since Day 1, even a couple of years ago on our [2015] Cup run, what Scotty did for us,” Jonathan Toews said. “We all know it’s a tough thing to just step in and play when you haven’t played in a while or often. To play the way he has is huge for our team especially going forward, knowing we have that depth. It goes with the same situations where we’ve missed guys like Duncs [Duncan Keith], Hoss [Marian Hossa], Seabs [Brent Seabrook], whoever, and the rest of the guys pick up the slack. Scott’s definitely been one of those key guys.”

Darling went 6-3-1 in his stint and the Blackhawks sit atop the Western Conference standings as the Christmas break approaches. For Darling, it wasn’t so much of a prove-something-to-yourself moment as it was enjoyable.

“It was just a lot of fun,” Darling said. “Obviously it was an unfortunate situation and happy Crow is back and healthy. But for me, I don’t get too much opportunity other than back to backs for me. It was huge for me to get some starts.”

The Blackhawks gained trust in Darling over the past two seasons, from when he first won the backup job and helped the team get through that first-round series against Nashville in 2015.

“We’ve had a lot of games and he’s really been stepping up,” Kruger said earlier this week. “He’s been playing more than every other day. That just tells you he can play a lot and be consistent. He’s been great.”

Normally, Crawford would get the bulk of the starts, injury or not. Now, considering how well Darling did in Crawford’s absence, coach Joel Quenneville admits he’ll think about how he splits goalie time the rest of the season. If nothing else, it keeps Crawford from getting worn down heading into any potential postseason work.

“It will get some discussion knowing that we’ll keep an eye on Corey. I think going into this season you anticipate him playing all the back to backs and getting more based on performance and gauging how Crow is handling it as well. I think that will come into the decision,” Quenneville said. “Certainly, [Darling] has enhanced how we view the opportunity, him getting a little bit more and making it tough when we’re making decisions on who’s in net.”

Darling doesn’t get sizeable workloads like that often, and he’s thrilled Crawford is back. Still, he enjoyed the opportunity. Considering how he did during it, that’s understandable.

“I have faith and confidence in my abilities. I think last year was more the first time taking the reins and playing that many games, I was a little bit more nervous,” Darling said. “But this year it was a lot of fun.”

Are the Blackhawks preparing to keep Kirby Dach on NHL roster?

Are the Blackhawks preparing to keep Kirby Dach on NHL roster?

The Blackhawks will eventually have a decision to make on No. 3 overall pick Kirby Dach, whose clock is officially ticking after he made his NHL debut over the weekend and scored his first goal in his second game two nights later.

The Blackhawks, as we know, can give Dach up to nine NHL games before having to decide whether they want to burn the first year of his entry-level contract. Whether he makes it past nine games or not, if the Blackhawks don't feel like he's pro ready for the full season, the only other option for the team is to send Dach back to the Saskatoon Blades in the WHL because he's not eligible to play in the AHL full-time this season due to CHL rules.

That being said, it appears the Blackhawks are at least preparing for the possibility that Dach could be kept on the NHL roster beyond the nine-game tryout this season.

TSN's Bob McKenzie reported Wednesday on NBCSN that: "You don't have to make a decision on this right now, so Stan Bowman and the Chicago Blackhawks won't, but if you twisted their arm and said you do have to make a decision, I think they're definitely leaning towards this guy being an NHL player this season."

The roster move the Blackhawks made earlier in the day indicates the organization is making sure it can afford Dach's services in case he does stay the whole season.

Connor Murphy was placed on long-term injured reserve (LTIR) Wednesday with a groin injury, which means he'll be sidelined for a minimum of 10 games and 24 days. By putting him on LTIR instead of regular injured reserve, the Blackhawks get some cap relief and that’s noteworthy when you factor in Dach's potential performance bonuses that could reach up to $2.5 million.

When Dach was activated and recalled, the Blackhawks exceeded the 7.5 percent cushion in total amount of potential performance bonuses by $595,000, according to Cap Friendly. That number was then applied to the cap, which put the Blackhawks near the upper limit. So every dollar counts, considering the bonus money rolls over to next season's salary cap if there isn’t enough financial space at the end of the season to absorb the hits.

The other noteworthy item from McKenzie's report: The Blackhawks aren't too worried about burning the first year of Dach's entry-level contract. They're more-so looking ahead to the 40-game mark, which would put him one year closer to becoming an unrestricted free agent — a player must be 27 or older as of June 30 or accrue seven seasons to become a UFA, and hitting 40 games counts as a full season if they're on the NHL roster, injured or not.

The Blackhawks have said all along that there's no set plan on Dach's future and his performance will dictate what's going to happen. But the team is prepared for every scenario, and that includes keeping him past the nine-game tryout and 40-game benchmark.

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Connor Murphy placed on long-term injured reserve

Connor Murphy placed on long-term injured reserve

The Blackhawks have announced that defenseman Connor Murphy will be placed on long-term injured reserve (LTIR) due to a groin injury.

Earlier reports stated the 26-year-old Murphy would miss “a couple of weeks” after leaving the second period of the Blackhawks game against the Golden Knights last night. Murphy had previously sat out of the Blackhawks season opener in Prague for the same injury.

LTIR is designed for teams navigating the cap hit when a player is out with a long-term injury. According to the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), this means the player will be out for at least 24 calendar days and 10 regular season games. While LTIR doesn’t create cap space, it does allow a team to replace the player on LTIR with any number of other players to fill the roster hole.

In the case of Murphy, the Blackhawks recoup his $3.85M cap hit for the duration he’s LTIR. The Blackhawks can go over the cap hit for the time being, but once they activate him his entire cap hit goes back on the books. Essentially, the Blackhawks can go over the cap for the time being up to what Murphy was making, plus whatever cap space they had beforehand.

As for who will take Murphy’s place in the lineup, the Blackhawks have a few options. So far, it has been announced they have recalled defenseman Dennis Gilbert from the Rockford IceHogs.

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