Scott Darling hasn’t started a game since a 4-0 loss at Florida on Jan. 22, his lone appearance being a relief effort of Corey Crawford four nights later. And based on Joel Quenneville’s usual schedule of starting Darling only when the Blackhawks play back-to-back games, the backup goalie won’t see the ice again until early March, and then just one more time after that before the playoffs.
Even with a workhorse like Crawford, that’s not going to work. So Quenneville will pick his spots and try to get Darling in every now and then over the final two months of the season.
“The schedule gets better this month, then picks up again in March,” Quenneville said. “There’ll be times when [he plays and] it’s not a back-to-back. We’re going to have to get him in there at some point. We’ll see how things are going, how things are sorting out in the playoff race. Sometimes, it could be the opponent who dictates that. But I would expect him getting more than just back-to-back starts.”
Including Tuesday night against San Jose, Crawford has appeared in 46 of the Hawks’ 57 games, putting him on pace to surpass the career-high 59 games he played in 2013-14. Quenneville wasn’t concerned, though.
“Whatever the number is, he’s fresh,” Quenneville said. “He likes the workload.”
The Hawks will face the Minnesota Wild at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis on Feb. 21, and are being strongly considered for next year’s Winter Classic, likely against the St. Louis Blues at Busch Stadium. It would be their fifth outdoor game, while 13 teams have yet to play in one. The outdoor games bring some headaches — and the Winter Classic would mean another month with an embedded camera crew from Epix — but Quenneville welcomed the possibility.
“It’s no trouble at all, we love it,” he said. “We like the situation. We’re thinking about the one in a week and a half. … It’s a great opportunity and players love it. Special setting for families, as well. It’s always a privilege to be involved with those games.”
Artemi Panarin missed Tuesday’s morning skate with an illness, as a bug continues to work its way through the Hawks locker room. Artem Anisimov missed a game in mid-January because of it, and Jonathan Toews skipped the All-Star game (which earned him a one-game suspension) because of it, while still other players have fought through it.
“It’s the schedule; we’re busy with travel, in numerous places,” Quenneville shrugged. “You look around the league, you see a lot of guys missing games due to illness. Our [athletic] trainers and our medical team are doing a tremendous job of preventing it. It’s something to keep an eye on.”