Crawford on the verge of returning for Blackhawks, Patrick Sharp named NHL's first star

Written By Sun-Times Wire Posted: 12/30/2013, 12:47pm

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Patrick Sharp raced down the left side of the ice, took a pass from Jonathan Toews and rifled a low wrist shot on net. Corey Crawford fell to his knees and swung his right pad out wide, kicking it aside with ease.

“He’s looking good,” Sharp said after Crawford participated in Monday’s morning skate, his first action with the team since suffering a groin injury on Dec. 8. “He stopped me a few times in practice. He’s jumping around in there like he always is.”

Crawford won’t dress for tonight’s game against the Los Angeles Kings β€” the 10th straight game he’ll miss β€” but is expected to return on the road either Thursday against the Islanders or Friday against the Devils. Not a moment too soon for Crawford, either, for multiple reasons β€” not the least of which is, he was getting antsy skating by himself the past week.

“It felt pretty long when I was out,” said Crawford, who added that he’d never had an injury this severe. “I was getting pretty bored there for a bit. It’s nice to be back on the ice with the guys.”

Another reason Crawford’s anxious to play again is that Team Canada will make its Olympic roster decisions in the upcoming days, ahead of the Jan. 7 deadline. Vancouver’s Roberto Luongo and Montreal’s Carey Price are viewed as locks for the roster, with Crawford and Phoenix’s Mike Smith seen as competing for the third and final goalie spot.

Crawford didn’t believe his injury cost him a spot just yet.

“I thought I played pretty good [before the injury],” he said. “Is the roster decided yet? There’s still time. They know what I can do.”

Crawford said the biggest challenge when he returns will be getting his timing back, but that the brisk pace and high intensity of the Hawks’ brief practices will help. The Hawks will be off on Tuesday, but will be back on the ice Wednesday before heading to Long Island. Crawford said he’s been pain-free since returning from the mandated three-day Christmas break, and is “ready to go.”

Crawford was playing nearly every game before he got hurt, but likely will have a slightly lighter workload now that Antti Raanta has established himself as an NHL-caliber goalie in his absence. Crawford benefitted greatly from Ray Emery’s stellar play last season, which allowed Crawford plenty of time off leading up to the grueling playoff run.

Not that Crawford necessarily wants the extra rest.

“I like playing,” he said with a smirk. “But you’re right, it’s a packed schedule and a lot of games condensed in a short amount of time. It definitely helps.”

SHARP HONORED
Sharp, who has scored six goals in the last three games, was named the NHL’s First Star of the Week on Monday. Sharp has 11 goals and six assists in the Hawks’ last eight games, and the timing couldn’t be better, as he hopes to land a spot on Team Canada.

“Who knows if those decisions have been made, or haven’t been made, or if it has any impact at all,” Sharp said of the honor. “I don’t really know. I’m trying not to think about it. Just playing hockey for the Hawks.”

Sharp’s teammates, notably Jonathan Toews, have been openly campaigning for him.

“I read some comments there, it was pretty nice,” Sharp said. “I had to [do a] double-take, and make sure it said ‘Jonathan Toews’ at the end of it. I’m not used to hearing nice things from him. It was pretty cool to see that.”

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