Maybe if the Blackhawks weren’t mired in a five-game losing streak, and weren’t on the outside of the playoff picture, and weren’t in desperate need of a victory, Corey Crawford takes another few days off. Joel Quenneville always seems to err on the side of caution when players are working their way back from injuries, saying he wants them to be “more than ready.”
But desperate times call for desperate measures. And since Crawford said he’s good to go, he’s going. After missing three games with a nagging lower-body injury, Crawford will return to the net Friday night against the Buffalo Sabres.
“It’s a good question,” Quenneville said. “I’m not sure [if it would be different if the Hawks had a better record]. But if he’s ready to play, and passes all the clearances, it’s up to us. He got a break there, so let’s go.”
Crawford participated in Friday’s morning skate and appeared to be moving well. Quenneville said he reported no issues. The Hawks were happy to have him back, with Patrick Kane saying they’d “welcome him with open arms.”
The Hawks lost all three games Crawford missed, though Anton Forsberg played well enough to win the first two before allowing three goals in a little more than three minutes and getting pulled for J-F Berube at Washington. Crawford is 11-7-2 with a sparkling .930 save percentage and 2.29 goals-against average this season.
“It’s huge,” Duncan Keith said. “Obviously, he’s been great all year and for the last several years for us. A big part of our success. We know that when he’s in the net there, he makes those big saves when we need them. I think it gives everybody more confidence knowing we’ve got a guy back there that can make those type of saves and keep us in it even when we’re not at our best.”
Crawford isn’t the only one returning to the lineup. Vinnie Hinostroza, recalled from Rockford after Tanner Kero cleared waivers on Friday, will make his season debut against the Sabres. The speedy forward had nine goals and 13 assists in 23 games, 11th in the AHL in points. Quenneville declined to say who would be scratched to make room for him, and Hinostroza can play enter and either wing. But with Alex DeBrincat moved into the top six for the game, it seems likely that Hinostroza will slot in on the third line for either Patrick Sharp, Ryan Hartman or Richard Panik, the latter of whom hasn’t scored in 19 games.
“He’s done some good things [in Rockford],” Quenneville said. “Offensively he’s had some good games, has some production, gives us some speed, energy and enthusiasm. I’m sure his appetite for being back here is going to be in the right place. That’s what we’re looking for from Vinnie.”
Said Kane: “He’s probably one of the few guys that can really create on his own, just with his speed and his whole skill-set. Obviously, we’re looking for a little bit of a spark, and I’m sure he’s excited to come up, too. It’d be good to get him back in the lineup.”
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