Corey Crawford (Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images)
There were questions surrounding the health of Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford and whether he would be able to play when the playoffs began, but Crawford and coach Joel Quenneville seem confident the netminder will be good to go.
Chicago coach Joel Quenneville is usually pretty tight-lipped when it comes to injuries, so when he says he “absolutely” expects goaltender Corey Crawford to be in net come the opening game of the post-season, there’s no reason to believe the Blackhawks netminder won’t be suiting up.
Quenneville’s confidence in having Crawford back for the playoff opener comes on the same day the 31-year-old netminder returned to practice in Chicago. Crawford hasn’t played since mid-March and there were reports that he was dealing with a head injury — possibly even vertigo — and that’s what was keeping him off the ice. When asked if he would be in goal to start the post-season, Crawford wasn’t so quick to say he’d see action out of the gate.
“I would love to (start Game 1), but then again there’s no rush,” Crawford said. “It’s literally day-by-day. Training staff has done a good job, and they always make sure our guys are ready when we get on the ice. It’s no different here, but today was a really good day.”
Crawford did little to stop speculation surrounding the injury — he brushed off attempts to talk about when or how the injury occurred — but the Blackhawks netminder said he was working his way back well. He said the Tuesday practice was a tough workout, and that getting back will be a matter of getting back up to game speed as best he can.
“The little details go away a bit the longer you miss,” Crawford said. “Practice has been pretty hard, pretty intense technical stuff with (goaltending coach Jimmy Waite). It feels good. Today felt good with the shots. We’ll go day-by-day, but right now, after today, I felt good seeing stuff.”
Crawford admitted that his time on the shelf was frustrating, but the Blackhawks haven’t fared too poorly with him out of the lineup to this point. Over their past nine games — all of which Crawford has missed — Chicago is 5-3-1 and Scott Darling has started each of those games. Crawford said he’s itching to get back into the net, though, and his chance could come as soon as Saturday.
“I think with (Crawford) getting back on the ice, seeing pucks and getting the pace in front of him — nothing better than a game situation,” Quenneville said. “We’re looking to get him that chance, and then we’ll go from there.”
Crawford definitely won’t be getting the call Tuesday night against the Arizona Coyotes, but if Quenneville wants to get his starter some action, there’s a chance to get the goaltender a start Thursday against St. Louis or on the road Saturday in Columbus. To Crawford, that sounded good.
“Today felt really good,” Crawford said. “If I’m there, if I feel like I’m at game timing and pace, then why not.”