Corey Crawford could make long-awaited return Thursday


Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford, center, walks the red carpet during introduction of the team before an NHL hockey game, their home-opener, against the Toronto Maple Leafs, Sunday, Oct. 7, 2018, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Kamil Krzaczynski)

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by Scott King

For the past couple weeks, Thursday’s contest vs. the visiting Arizona Coyotes has been the game targeted for Corey Crawford (concussion symptoms) to make his return to the Blackhawks’ net.

The two-time Stanley Cup champ last saw game competition on December 23 in New Jersey.

Following Wednesday’s practice, Crawford said he will decide if he’s playing after Thursday’s morning skate, but the plan is for him to be in net.

“I’m sure I’ll be a little anxious getting into it,” Crawford told reporters after practice. “Some nerves. But we’ll see. We’ll wait until the morning. I’m definitely excited, I’ll tell you that.”

Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville thinks the time is right for the Hawks starter to make his return. “He looks good in the net,” Quenneville said. “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.”

“It feels good to be back to myself,” Crawford said. “I’m feeling good, I’m feeling clear.”

Thursday’s game could be a good one for Crawford to ease back into as the 1-4-0 Coyotes only have three goals in their first five games.

The Hawks mustered up an impressive 3-0-2 start without Crawford, grabbing a possible eight out of 10 points and are sitting in second place behind the Nashville Predators (10 points) in the Central division standings.

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Brandon Saad sported a white Hawks practice sweater all week leading up to Thursday’s game. He was demoted to the team’s fourth line during their 4-3 overtime win vs. St. Louis on Saturday. Saad has two assists in the team’s first five games this season.

Following Wednesday’s practice, Coach Quenneville said Saad “could play” Thursday, which in Q Speak, usually translates to “will play”.

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