Corey Crawford taking pressure head-on

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Corey Crawford taking pressure head-on

Corey Crawford got his first question about pressure this season not long after we knew there would actually be a season.
Pressure? Were talking about that already? the Blackhawks goaltender said to laughs. This is fun, what we do. Im excited.
That was nearly two weeks ago, when euphoria from the lockouts impending end overshadowed the pressure that every team would feel with a 48-game schedule.
Now, on the eve of the NHLs opening day, that pressure is probably resonating with many. And Crawford has to be among them.
Crawford had a second consecutive 30-victory season in 2011-12. But he knows its all about how you finish, and Crawfords finish was a tough one against the Phoenix Coyotes, who eliminated the Blackhawks in the first round last April. As the Blackhawks prepare for their season opener at the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday afternoon, Crawfords back to show he can rebound this season.
Every years big, but especially this year, said Crawford, whos entering the second year of the three-year, 8 million deal he signed in the summer of 2011. My record last year, I still won 30 games. But obviously there were times I couldve been more consistent, given this team a chance.
Indeed, despite those 30 victories, Crawford was inconsistent last season. He could have a brilliant, strong streak, then go into a tailspin where hed get yanked from games. Backup Ray Emery would take the reins, go on a streak of his own, and the never-ending goalie controversy talk would begin anew. Crawfords toughest moments came in the playoffs, when hes mostly remembered for losing two games on two soft goals.
They were rough, and Crawford doesnt need reminding.
I dont need to look at (the film of that). I remember it pretty well, Crawford said. Its something thats going to motivate me.
The Blackhawks have long said that they have confidence in Crawford, although their inquiry about Martin Brodeurs availability this summer somewhat flies in the face of that. Still, coach Joel Quenneville said Crawford has proven his mettle in the past, and that he looked better as Wednesday nights scrimmage progressed.
Whether it was getting the rust off or getting into the feel, you could see him settling in and taking charge, Quenneville said. He looked comfortable, confident.
How Quenneville even juggles his goaltending situation this season is unclear. With games coming in rapid succession, there may be more splitting duties than usual. But Crawford is the No. 1 guy and his play will largely dictate how things go.
Pressure was a bit of a punch line a few weeks ago. But its very real now, and Crawford is going to be feeling his share of it. His backers will be hoping every big save is followed by more big saves. His critics will be waiting or that first hiccup or soft goal.
Crawford knows its a proving season for him. And he said ready to handle the pressure.
Im a competitive guy, Crawford said. And Im confident right now that I can do my job.

Blackhawks sign goaltender Jeff Glass to two-year deal

Blackhawks sign goaltender Jeff Glass to two-year deal

The Blackhawks added organizational depth to their goaltending position by inking Jeff Glass to a two-year deal that runs through the 2017-18 season, the team announced Thursday. His deal carries a $612,500 cap hit, according to CapFriendly.com.

Glass, 31, signed a contract with the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League in January, and played well enough to earn himself a deal at the professional level.

He owns a 5-4-1 record with a 2.38 goals against average, .917 save percentage and two shutouts in 10 games since joining the IceHogs, and has earned victories in four of his last five games.

A third round selection by Ottawa in 2004, Glass has yet to make his National Hockey League debut, but he's making strides in the right direction by jumping Mac Carruth on Rockford's depth chart and rotating with Lars Johansson.

The move provides insurance for a Blackhawks team that is relatively thin at the goaltending position outside of Corey Crawford and Scott Darling, the latter of whom will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. 

And given the uncertainty of Darling's status heading into the summer, Glass could compete for the backup job next year. He also fills the expansion draft requirements if Chicago chooses to go that direction, although it's unlikely he'll be claimed by Las Vegas.

Blackhawks look to keep rolling vs. Coyotes

Blackhawks look to keep rolling vs. Coyotes

The last time the Blackhawks faced the Arizona Coyotes was the first game the current top line of Nick Schmaltz, Jonathan Toews and Richard Panik were thrown together.

Yeah, the combination's worked out well. So has the Blackhawks' game in general, as they've won seven of eight including that Feb. 2 game. Now the Blackhawks will try to keep the momentum rolling with their lines and their game when they host the Coyotes Thursday night at the United Center.

The Blackhawks' current run of success started in the desert and part of that has been finding more consistent lines. Everything else has gradually improved off of that, from goal scoring to puck possession.

"I think it's puck possession, puck control, pace to the game," coach Joel Quenneville said. "I thought we were very inconsistent in that early and we were defending way more than we were accustomed to. You're vulnerable for penalties, you're vulnerable for quality scoring chances against and not generating enough. I think that's the progression in our game now, it seems like all four lines are having the puck and having some zone time and having some rush chances, zone chances and it seems like every line's contributing there, and that's the big difference."

[RELATED: By the bye - Blackhawks keep rolling following break]

The Blackhawks' top line didn't have immediate chemistry but Quenneville kept them together and let them work on it. But as Toews said, it was about the group keeping the all-around game going, points or no points.

"Sometimes you just gotta work until things start clicking," Toews said. "Everyone seems to start paying attention when you start scoring goals, regardless of [the fact you're] doing things right. It's nice that we're scoring but we have to stick with what's making us a successful line at both ends of the rink right now."

Corey Crawford will start vs. the Coyotes. Niklas Hjalmarsson did not skate this morning but is expected to play. Quenneville said Michal Rozsival could draw into the lineup.

Broadcast information

Time: 7:30 p.m.
TV: CSN
Live stream: CSNChicago.com

Blackhawks lines

Nick Schmaltz -Jonathan Toews-Richard Panik
Artemi Panarin-Artem Anisimov-Patrick Kane
Dennis Rasmussen-Marcus Kruger-Marian Hossa
Ryan Hartman-Tanner Kero-Vinnie Hinostroza

Defensive pairs

Duncan Keith-Niklas Hjalmarsson
Michal Rozsival-Brent Seabrook
Brian Campbell-Trevor van Riemsdyk

Goaltender

Corey Crawford

Injuries 

None

Coyotes lines (via Arizona Republic)

Tobias Rieder-Martin Hanzal-Radim Vrbata
Brendan Perlini-Christian Dvorak-Shane Doan
Max Domi -Alex Burmistrov-Ryan White
Jamie McGinn-Jordan Martinook-Josh Jooris

Defensive pairs

Oliver Ekman-Larsson-Luke Schenn
Alex Goligoski-Anthony DeAngelo
Jakob Chychrun-Connor Murphy

Goaltender

Mike Smith

Injuries

Lawson Crouse (lower body), Brad Richardson (tibia)