Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford, who has missed the last three games with an upper-body injury, is unlikely to make the Hawks’ road trip to Calgary, coach Joel Quenneville said.
Crawford has been “day-to-day” for nine days since the Hawks announced the injury on March 17. Scott Darling has started for Crawford the last four games — including a scheduled start against the Flyers on March 16, a 3-2 loss. Darling is 1-2-1 in the four games — beating the Winnipeg Jets 4-0 and losing to the Flyers, Wild (3-2 in a shootout) and Stars (6-2, when he was pulled after allowing four goals in the first period.
The Hawks (42-25-7, 91 points) play at Calgary on Saturday, Vancouver on Sunday and Wild on Tuesday before concluding the trip at Winnipeg on April 1. Michael Leighton, who replaced Darling in the second period against the Stars, will continue to be Darling’s back up. Quenneville said Leighton “could” make a start on the upcoming road trip.
Crawford is considered a Vezina Trophy candidate. He is 35-18-4 with a 2.32 goals-against average and .926 save percentage this season. Darling is 7-6-3 with a 2.42 goals-against average and .913 save percentage for the season. In the last four games, he is 1-2-1 with a 2.66 goals-against average and .915 save percentage — skewed a bit, arguably, by the bad game against the Stars when he allowed four goals on 15 shots in the first period.
“We know how important [Crawford] is to our team and the success we’ve had,” Quenneville said. “He’s had a tremendous year for us. Big part of it, and how we play. Trust factor as well.
“In his absence, it’s a great opportunity fo Darls. But I can’t say enough positive things about how valuable Corey’s been to our team this year.”
With eight games to play in the regular season, they are six points behind the Central Division-leading Stars (44-22-9, 97) and four points behind the second-place Blues (43-22-9, 95). The Hawks also are just two points ahead of the Nashville Predators (38-23-13) for the No. 3 spot in the Western Conference playoffs.
“We want to get some momentum back,” Quenneville said when asked about his “main focus” for the four-game road trip. “We want to make sure our team game is back where it needs to be. Starts to games have got to be better. Play the right way. Let’s get some energy back.”