DALLAS — Corey Crawford just didn’t look right Thursday night against the Dallas Stars. He was slow to get up at least twice, rising to one knee and leaning on his stick for support. And he was uncharacteristically slow to come across the crease on Mattias Janmark’s wraparound goal in the first period, giving himself no chance to make the save.
Turns out he wasn’t just off. He was hurt.
“It’s a lower-body injury that has been kind of annoying for him for a recent stretch,” coach Joel Quenne-ville said. “And we want to get it right.”
Crawford, by rule, will miss at least three games after being put on injured reserve Friday. He’s eligible to return next Friday against the Sabres, but Quenneville would only say his star goaltender will be re-evaluated at that point. But while it’s a relatively minor injury, it could have a major effect on the Blackhawks, who are fighting for playoff positioning in every game. And with the first-place Kings visiting the United Center on Sunday and a trip to perennial power Washington up next, the pressure will be on Anton Forsberg to keep the Hawks afloat.
Forsberg entered Saturday 1-2-2 with a .904 save percentage and a 3.89 goals-against average.
“It’s not supposed to be any different if you’re playing every other week or playing every day,” Forsberg said after an optional morning skate Saturday in Farmers Branch, with the Stars and Hawks displaced by a Dallas Mavericks matinee. “It’s easier to find your game if you play more often. But so far, I’ve felt pretty comfortable when I’ve been playing.”
Quenneville said that the injury had flared up occasionally during games and that it was “more bothersome” Thursday. Crawford’s teammates had no idea he had played through an injury. Forsberg didn’t even know anything was up until he saw J-F Berube, called up from Rockford to back up Forsberg, step on the plane Friday afternoon. Quenneville wouldn’t say if Berube will start Sunday or if Forsberg will play back-to-back games.
Quenneville stressed that it’s not believed to be a “long-term” injury. Had it been a player of any other position, he probably would have just been scratched for a game or two and then re-evaluated. But since the Hawks only carry two goaltenders, Crawford had to be put on injured reserve to free up a roster spot for Berube.
In recent seasons, the Hawks have rallied around Scott Darling and Antti Raanta during their first significant stretches as No. 1 goaltenders. Raanta went 8-1-2 in December 2013 after Crawford injured his ankle at a concert, and Darling, who famously won three playoff games in the first round of the 2015 playoffs, closed the 2015-16 season with a 5-1-1 run when Crawford suffered a concussion.
But Quenneville didn’t want his players altering their games just because Crawford would not be back there to bail them out.
“We don’t really want to change how we play no matter who’s in the net,” Quenneville said. “Whether it’s a rallying point or not, that consistency’s got to be in place for us to have some success. The certain standard of how we compete and how we play -technically is always in place. Whether Fors is in there, or Crow’s in there, let’s play the same way. But let’s [have an] added emphasis tonight. Let’s go and give him an opportunity to get us two [points].”
Brent Seabrook echoed that sentiment.
“As defensemen, you want to help any goalie out, it doesn’t matter if it’s a 10-time Vezina Trophy winner or a young guy just finding his way,” Seabrook said. “As a group, we can be better in the way we play, and that’ll help everybody out.”
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