Corey Crawford close to returning for Blackhawks

Corey Crawford close to returning for Blackhawks
December 30, 2013, 12:15 pm
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Corey Crawford was taking the shots, moving well and feeling great. That’s good, because the goaltender can’t get back into the Chicago Blackhawks’ fold — and back into the net — soon enough.

“It felt long when I was out. I was getting bored there, so it’s nice to get back out with the guys,” said Crawford. “After the Christmas break, everything’s gone well. I haven’t felt the injury at all on the ice, and I’m ready to go.”

Crawford will not dress Monday night when the Blackhawks take on the Los Angeles Kings — Antti Raanta will start and Jason LaBarbera will back him up. But Crawford is likely a go later this week when the Blackhawks play back-to-back games against the New Jersey Devils and the New York Islanders.

“I thought he looked good (Monday morning),” coach Joel Quenneville said. “Hopefully we get him in that practice before the trip, and if all goes well, he’ll play on that trip.”

[MORE: Kings return to face Blackhawks Monday night on CSN]

For Crawford it’s about getting his timing back; and taking shots from his Blackhawks teammates Monday morning helps that.

“We practice at a pretty high pace, so it’s maybe a little easier when guys are shooting like they shoot in the game and coming in on you with a lot of speed,” he said. “It definitely helps when you’ve been off a little bit.”

While Crawford was out, Raanta filled in quite nicely. Raanta’s learning experience has been a fast-paced one; and while he’s had some ups and downs, he’s handled the workload pretty well.

“There have been good games and a couple of not-so-good games,” Raanta said. “I think I have a pretty good level. I’m not letting any totally easy goals in. But of course, you can only remember the last game you played and the end of that game (against St. Louis) wasn’t so great. Now it’s just OK. But when you think of it, (the experience) has been really good.”

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Crawford liked what he saw from Raanta in his absence.

“He’s great; he’s been playing awesome,” Crawford said. “He kept us in games and also shut some games down when we’ve taken the lead. You can’t ask any more of him the way he’s been playing.”

The Blackhawks will have a decision to make when Crawford does return. It seems likely that Raanta will stay here, considering how he’s played and with he and Crawford possibly making a strong tandem down the stretch.

“He’s earned the opportunity to be around,” Quenneville said. “When we get Corey back we’ll make that decision, but we’ve liked what we’ve seen.”