Crawford to start Thursday vs. Islanders

Crawford to start Thursday vs. Islanders
January 1, 2014, 12:30 pm
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The wait has been a long one for Corey Crawford.

It’s been nearly a month since he went down with that apparent groin injury against the Florida Panthers, and he’s been counting the days until he could play once again.

The counting, and waiting, is over.

Crawford will start and Antti Raanta will back him up when the Chicago Blackhawks play the New York Islanders on Thursday night. Crawford, who celebrated his 29th birthday on New Year’s Eve, is feeling good heading into tomorrow.

“I’m excited to start playing again; it’s been a little bit too long,” said Crawford, who’s not anticipating much rust or struggles with movement. “Our guys practice at pretty hard, so the pace is good and they make it easy to get back into it.”

[RELATED: Raanta closes out 2013 with first NHL shutout]

Still, with a goaltender coming off a lower-body injury and inclement weather both here and in the Northeast, the Blackhawks will take all three goaltenders — Crawford, Raanta and Jason LaBarbera — on this trip. After the Blackhawks return home, they’ll decide whether Raanta or LaBarbera head to Rockford.

Crawford was pretty strong on most of the Blackhawks’ circus trip. But he struggled right before he was hurt, giving up four goals in each of his two losses to Dallas and Minnesota.

“Corey had some good games, and that consistency we look for is something we expect out of him,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “We saw Antti do a real good job for us at an uncertain time.”

Speaking of Antti, will he stay with the Blackhawks after this trip or go to Rockford? We looked at both sides on Tuesday, but there’s no doubt Quenneville and the team brass have liked what they’ve seen from Raanta in his brief time here.

“These decisions always play themselves out. But he’s done a great job for us and we’re happy with what he can do and what he could do moving forward,” Quenneville said “He’s enhanced himself and put himself in a good spot. It’s something we haven’t nailed yet, but I’d be comfortable (with him here).”