Crawford's struggles open door for Emery

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Crawford's struggles open door for Emery

Updated: 4:42 p.m.

Corey Crawford is in uncharted NHL territory: hes slumping. Its something thats unknown to him at this level, as he excelled in every situation during his rookie season and even through the first month of this one.

So while he works on getting out of his slump, the Blackhawks will turn to their backup on Thursday night.

Ray Emery will get the start when the Blackhawks face the New York Islanders at Nassau Coliseum on Thursday. It will be the second start in the last three games for Emery, who also had relief duty when Crawford was pulled against Phoenix on Tuesday night.

For Emery, whos sporting a 4-1-2 mark, its a chance to continue the solid work hes done during the regular season. He won in St. Louis on Saturday, and outside of that mess in Edmonton, which was a team-wide debacle, hes been steady.

For Crawford, its a chance to take a step back, assess whats happening and work on it.

He can work on some things (with goaltending coach Stephane Waite) and get that confidence in the net, coach Joel Quenneville said. He can work on (things), whether its handling the puck, rebound control or fighting through traffic. Stephs going to be working with him the next few days to get that game back where it needs to be.

Crawford was stellar the first month of this season. He had some good games in November, but thats also when the inconsistencies started to show. Sometimes it was defensive mistakes that he couldnt make up for the Blackhawks defensive issues have been there plenty this season. But other times Crawford was allowing bad goals. It obviously hasnt set well with the competitive Crawford.

Its not very fun; its frustrating. Every second game seems to be a rough one for me, said Crawford. Im just trying to work hard, battle through it. Thats the only way I see getting out of it.

Quenneville isnt calling this a controversy. This is the first time Crawfords struggled in the NHL so its hardly that. But the Blackhawks are nevertheless going to address Crawfords ups and downs, and let him work his way through them.

Since hes been here, hes had the net and everythings been going great. So something like this (slump) gets your attention, Quenneville said. Thats why him and Steph work well. Its only a matter of time until he recaptures that confidence.

Crawford will work on it. He wont, however, mentally dwell on it.

I dont like losing, I dont like being pulled. But the worst thing I could do is start thinking about it too much and put everything on my shoulders, he said. Ill just keep doing what Ive been doing.

Jonathan Toews practices but won’t play vs. Flyers

Jonathan Toews practices but won’t play vs. Flyers

Jonathan Toews sounded somewhat frustrated but cognizant of the situation.

If it were the postseason there’s no doubt he would be playing right now. That’s not a surprise to hear, considering what hockey players put themselves through when the playoffs start. But this is early December. There are too many games remaining. And with it coming down to making sure he’s healthy for the long haul, it’s an easy call.

Toews practiced on Friday for the first time since being hurt, but he won’t travel to Philadelphia when the Blackhawks face the Flyers on Saturday afternoon. It will be the fifth consecutive game Toews has missed since he was hurt against the San Jose Sharks on Nov. 23. Still, him skating on his own and then practicing with teammates for a few minutes is a good sign that Toews is closing in on a return.

“Just come back and check in again [Saturday], see how it is and hopefully, I guess as they say, re-evaluate for Sunday,” Toews said on Friday. “It’s never fun to miss any time, especially when the team is playing as many games as they are. So nice to get back out there and move around and get going a little bit.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

Toews was placed on injured reserve on Friday, retroactive to Nov. 24, the day after he was injured.  Coach Joel Quenneville said he’ll see how Toews feels on Saturday and, “we’ll get a better idea going forward. But he’s not on the trip.”

“You gotta be fully recovered and want to make sure guys are 100 percent before they can play,” Quenneville said. “Jonny plays at a certain pace and it’s all out, so let’s make sure he’s more than ready when he’s coming back.”

Several have reported that Toews has a back injury, and the captain was doing several back stretches during Friday’s session. Toews left in the second period of the Blackhawks’ 2-1 loss to the Sharks, moments after he went down awkwardly. But Toews said he wasn’t hurt on that play. 

“I think it was just something that started to aggravate in the first period. I tried playing in the second and that instance right there, just went down like a ton of bricks,” Toews said. “I was trying not to aggravate the injury more than I already had. That wasn’t where I got hurt; [it was] probably the instance people were looking for to see what the explanation was.”

If this were April and the playoffs were about to begin, Toews probably wouldn’t be as patient with his injury. But it isn’t, and he will be. It’s not worth making worse. The Blackhawks have managed to get points in his absence, going 3-0-1 so far.

“It’s the type of thing most guys would be able to suck up and play if it were a playoff game and putting everything on the line. But at this point, with the amount of games left in the season, it’s not something you want to continuously deal with,” he said. “If you aggravate it, it’ll keep coming back to haunt you. It’s tough to hold back and do less than you know you can, but in the long run, trying to make sure I get back to 100 percent.”

BRIEFLY

- Trevor van Riemsdyk was activated off the injured-reserve list and is expected to play against the Flyers.

- Marian Hossa took practice off. He is expected to play.

-  Corey Crawford will start vs. Philadelphia.

Blackhawks Road Ahead: Feasting on the East

Blackhawks Road Ahead: Feasting on the East

Pat Boyle, Steve Konroyd and Jamal Mayers have the latest on Joel Quenneville's group in this edition of the Blackhawks Road Ahead, sponsored by Chicagoland NW Indiana Honda dealers.

The Blackhawks are once again taking care of business, going 3-0-1 with their captain Jonathan Toews on the sideline. They're also 6-2-2 against the East this year, and they'll get another chance to add to that record when they take on the Flyers this week.

Here's what our Blackhawks Postgame Live crew had to say about the team's upcoming matchups in this week's Honda Road Aehad.