Toews 'day-by-day', Crawford in goal vs. Ducks

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Toews 'day-by-day', Crawford in goal vs. Ducks

Saturday, Jan. 1, 2011
Posted: 12:31 p.m. Updated: 1:40 p.m.
By Tracey Myers
CSNChicago.com

For Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews, the past few days have felt like forever.

Toews was dying to get back on the ice after sustaining a right-shoulder injury against the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday night. So with healthy legs and the shoulder feeling better, Toews gave it a go on Saturday morning.

The go went well.

Toews practiced at Johnnys Ice House West on Saturday, a few hours before he, his Blackhawks teammates and players and coaches moms headed to Los Angeles for their two-game road trip. While he wont play Sunday in Anaheim, Toews return Saturday was nevertheless an encouraging sign that he could be back soon.

Its not 100 percent, but Im pretty happy where it is right now, considering the normal diagnosis for this injury is around two weeks, said an upbeat Toews, who was passing and taking a shot or two in practice but did not skate on a forward line. Its been getting better every day so thats obviously a good sign. If it keeps going at this pace, hopefully itll be quicker than that.

Coach Joel Quenneville said Toews practice was positive and encouraging, and it probably didnt hurt team spirit to see him out there again this quickly.

Certainly, your captain, you get a lot of inspiration knowing hes coming off an injury like that and he looked like he was one of the regulars out there at practice, he said. Its an encouraging sign for everybody, but lets make sure hes ready before we say hes ready.

Toews said he knew exactly what happened as soon as he sustained the injury because hed suffered it in his left shoulder years ago. He was spinning away, trying to brace himself for an incoming check when his shoulder hit the boards. Right now, hes just icing it and trying to get the range of motion back.

I just want to make sure it heals properly right now, he said. Ill take it day by day. Im just trying to stay positive and be upbeat. Thats the best way to heal up as quickly as I can.

Pisani, Crawford better

Forward Fernando Pisani, whos missed two games with the flu, practiced on Saturday and is expected to play Sunday in Anaheim. Pisani, who was on the right wing with Ryan Johnson and Dave Bolland on Saturday, said he lost six pounds from the illness.

He had looked good and had a three-game points streak before he got sick.

Its always frustrating when you have to leave the lineup, he said. Its one of those things you cant control and Im just working my way to get back into it again.

Goaltender Corey Crawford, meanwhile, said he feels normal again and will start against Anaheim on Sunday. Crawford had been practicing since Dec. 26 but had been struggling to regain his energy from the flu he had during the holidays.

I was getting tired really easy but Im 100 percent now, he said. My timing was really good today and thats the most important thing for me to have timing, be patient, be big and after that react. I feel really good today.

Briefly

Jordan Hendry was back on defense Saturday after playing a few games at forward recently, and he could be there Sunday vs. Anaheim.

He hasnt played in a while on the back end, Quenneville said. He has the ability to jump in a game and not missing a beat. His quickness and anticipation is something we can use. Were looking forward to getting him back on the back end.

Welcome aboard

The Blackhawks have signed defenseman Dylan Olsen to a three-year, two-way contract, the Duluth (Minn.) News Tribune reported. Olsen is a former first-round pick for the Blackhawks.

Tracey Myers is CSNChicago.com's Blackhawks Insider. Follow Tracey on Twitter @TramyersCSN for up-to-the-minute Hawks information.

Scott Darling takes the reins for Blackhawks in Corey Crawford’s absence

Scott Darling takes the reins for Blackhawks in Corey Crawford’s absence

It’s an interesting working life, really, this backup goaltending gig.

Most of the time, you’re in hurry-up-and-wait mode. But now and then something bizarre happens – like the starting goaltender needing an appendectomy on the road – that thrusts you into the No. 1 spot for a time.

Scott Darling has been here, done this before, though, and he did it well. And considering how goaltending has been the backbone of this team’s performance this season, the Blackhawks are confident he can handle the job.

Darling gave the Blackhawks a chance again on Sunday night, his 30-stop performance keeping them within one goal in what was ultimately a 2-1 loss to the Winnipeg Jets. Darling started his second consecutive game – Crawford was diagnosed with appendicitis prior to the team’s game in Philadelphia, where he had his operation. An interesting turn of events, for sure, but Darling will do what’s necessary in Crawford’s absence.

“Obviously you don’t want it to happen this way. But there’s not too many other ways it can happen so it’s an exciting opportunity for me,” Darling said following Sunday’s game. “I mean I don’t know what’s going to happen. I don’t know how long Corey will be gone or what the game plan is. But I’m excited to get a few more starts than usual.”

Darling had a whole three games of NHL experience in December of 2014 when he subbed for Crawford, out with a lower-body injury at that time. That worked out just fine – he won three of his first four starts and came up even bigger in the Blackhawks’ first-round series against the Nashville Predators that postseason.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

Coach Joel Quenneville said Darling has handled the extremes well.

“I think that’s what it’s all about in that role: you’re ready to play once every four or five games and then all of a sudden you’re playing every night and it’s a different job description, workload, pressure. But the expectations when you do get it can be different,” Quenneville said. “Some guys handle it the same way, going every fourth or fifth game and don’t change a beat. I think Darls did exactly that. He had a good demeanor, had a good approach, was patient as he always was. I think that helped a lot. He played some critical games for us in the playoffs, handled it the same way and that’s how you’re hoping they handle it.”

Darling is expected to get most, if not all, of the workload while Crawford’s out. Lars Johansson was recalled on Sunday and will serve as backup, but he has no NHL experience – then again, Darling didn’t have much a few years ago, either.

But Darling isn’t taking anything for granted during this stretch.

“I’ve gotta win some games to have the right to get those minutes,” he said.

Maybe, but the Blackhawks also have to give him some help. The goaltending hasn’t gotten a ton of that from the Blackhawks, who have sputtered offensively most of the season. No matter who’s in net, the Blackhawks need to start producing more.

For now, Darling is the man. He’s rolled with the backup-gig demands before and should be fine again. And if the Blackhawks can help him out some, they shouldn’t miss much of a beat without Crawford.

“He’s played great. I thought he played great again [Sunday],” Duncan Keith said. “He gave us a chance, and you know, more than a chance to win. He stopped breakaways and made big plays all night. We’re lucky to have him as a goalie we can look to when we’ve got a guy like Crow out.”

Five Things from Blackhawks-Jets: Offense still anemic

Five Things from Blackhawks-Jets: Offense still anemic

The Blackhawks may want to forget this weekend.

Their captain is struggling health-wise and the rest of the team is struggling in other aspects. That led to a point-less pair of games, something the Blackhawks haven’t dealt with often this season. Even a return home on Sunday, where the Blackhawks had collected points in 12 consecutive games, couldn’t help them.

Still, the show must go on. So before we trudge home in the slush, let’s look at Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ 2-1 loss to the Winnipeg Jets.

1. Jonathan Toews isn’t improving. The captain isn’t getting any worse but his injury isn’t getting better. That’s what coach Joel Quenneville said prior to the game, the sixth in a row Toews has missed with a reported back injury. Toews skated on Sunday morning but will not shut it down for a few days. That’s discouraging news, especially for Toews. You could hear the frustration in Toews’ voice when he talked following Friday’s practice. It’s likely growing.

2. Scott Darling did all he could. We could have “goaltending buoys the Blackhawks” on a save/get key this season. It was true again on Sunday as Darling was stellar in stopping 30 of 32 shots. The Blackhawks have gone through their troubles this season but goaltending hasn’t been one of them. Darling will take the bulk of the work while Corey Crawford is sidelined. If he plays the way he did on Sunday night, the Blackhawks won’t have to worry about that part of their game.

3. Little generated again. Both teams played on Saturday but the Blackhawks were the ones really looking lackluster on Sunday night. The Blackhawks once again didn’t have many great scoring opportunities; through two periods, you could count their quality shots on one hand. They woke up some in the third period but not enough.

4. Second line drawing all the attention? OK, again, right now Artemi Panarin, Artem Anisimov and Patrick Kane are the Blackhawks’ top line. And with that, the trio has become the prime target of attention for the opposition. Other lines have had opportunities but these are not the balanced Blackhawks teams of previous seasons. That second line is what did the bulk of the damage last season, and teams are focusing on it –  and being more successful against it – this season.

5. Power plays a problem again. The Blackhawks’ first power play was as forgettable as they come. It was so unproductive, spent so little time in the Jets’ zone that fans started to audibly groan. And when the Blackhawks got a four-minute power play late in regulation they couldn’t get the game-tying goal. Again, this isn’t the first season the power play has struggled. But when the offense overall dries up, the issues here are that much more glaring.