Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford earns rest, draws Hall of Fame praise

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Corey Crawford covers the puck as Cam Atkinson tries to gain control of the rebound Saturday in Columbus, Ohio. Kirk Irwin/Getty Images

Less than 24 hours after earning his first victory in more than 10 months Saturday against the Blue Jackets, Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford received a day off Sunday.

He wasn’t exactly thrilled about it, either.

‘‘I think he wanted to play tonight,’’ coach Joel Quenneville said with a wry grin before the Hawks’ 6-3 loss to the Lightning. ‘‘Which is a good sign.’’

All signs have been positive since Crawford returned from a lengthy absence caused by concussion-like symptoms. He has posted a .941 save percentage and a 2.05 goals-against average in his first two starts.

Quenneville likely will continue to spell Crawford in back-to-back games while he readjusts to the workload. The Hawks have three goalies on their roster in Crawford, Cam Ward and Anton Forsberg, who would have to clear waivers if the team tries to send him down.

The potential loss of Forsberg wouldn’t sting nearly as much if Crawford stays healthy.

Also before the game, Lightning coach Jon Cooper said Crawford might end up in the Hall of Fame. Crawford, who helped the Hawks beat the Lightning in the 2015 Stanley Cup Final, has two championship rings and a career record of 231-125-45 with a .919 save percentage and 2.37 GAA.


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‘‘To me, if you were to sit here and make a list of the three guys in this league that are probably not talked about near enough, but . . . if you look at it and say, ‘Is this guy a Hall of Famer?’ he’s going to be one of them,’’ Cooper said.

‘‘Just looking from afar and having played these guys in the Stanley Cup Final, you can sit here and talk about [Jonathan] Toews, [Patrick] Kane, [Duncan] Keith — all those guys. But it was Crawford that was the calming influence, especially in the games where we were pressing and [had] chances, games that we could have pulled out but didn’t.

‘‘It was Crawford that stopped us. Then all the guys took over after that. So I think you’re going to look back at his résumé — if he continues with a little bit more longevity here — [and] he’ll be hard to keep out of the Hall of Fame conversation.’’

Savvy veteran

Veteran wing Chris Kunitz played against familiar faces on the Lightning, for whom he scored 13 goals in 82 games last season.

Kunitz, 39, has one assist in his first eight games with the Hawks, but his spot in the lineup appears to be secure. He has earned time on the power play recently as a presence in front of the net.

‘‘I like what he brings to the table,’’ Quenneville said. ‘‘I think he’s a real pro. I think his experience is healthy for our team. He’s good in the course of the game on the bench. On the ice, I think that he does the right things. He’s one guy, scoring a goal would help [get him going].’’

No bull

Predators coach Peter Laviolette conducted an interview in a bull mask after losing a bet with his players. Would Quenneville do something similar?

‘‘I don’t want to give these guys any ideas,’’ he said with a laugh.

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