The Blackhawks opened training camp without arguably the most important player for their playoff hopes.
Goaltender Corey Crawford, the lone proven option in goal since Robin Lehner’s deadline trade, did not attend practice and was declared “unfit to play” by coach Jeremy Colliton.
According to the league’s Return to Play protocols, the Hawks can’t disclose why Crawford — also the team’s lone NHL regular not to join Phase 2 workouts in previous weeks — was absent Monday or for how long he’ll be absent.
But based on Colliton’s comments, the Hawks are treating it like a long-term reality and looking toward deadline addition Malcolm Subban and AHL goalies Collin Delia and Kevin Lankinen to fill the void.
“We’ll rotate them through the first group,” Colliton said. “It’s a great opportunity for them and a great opportunity for us to evaluate them, and we expect a lot of competition. We have confidence in all three of those guys that they’re going to make it hard on us.”
General manager Stan Bowman was unwilling to shed more light on the situation, either.
“We’re looking at the guys that are here and ready to play,” Bowman said. “When Corey’s in that group, then we can talk about Corey.”
Crawford’s wife, Kristy, gave birth to the couple’s second son in April, early on in the coronavirus pandemic. But Crawford didn’t officially opt out of the NHL’s restart by Monday’s deadline — unlike a handful of players on other teams, many of whom cited family health concerns — and was included on the Hawks’ official 35-man camp roster.
The Crawford saga highlighted an eventful first day of camp, which will last for the next two weeks until the team travels to Edmonton on July 26.
Among the notable participants were defensemen Brent Seabrook, out since December after undergoing three surgeries on his shoulders and hips, and Calvin de Haan, also out since December after shoulder surgery.
But not present — and officially out for the playoffs, too, given their exclusion from the official roster — were forwards Zack Smith, who suffered a then-season-ending back injury in February, and Andrew Shaw, out since November with lingering concussion issues. Shaw announced on Instagram later Monday that he plans to return in 2020-21.
The Hawks split practice into two groups: one made up of NHL regulars, the other of “taxi squad” players who spent most of the year in the AHL or junior hockey.
That list of call-ups included forwards MacKenzie Entwistle, Brandon Hagel, Reese Johnson, Philipp Kurashev, John Quenneville and Dylan Sikura, defensemen Nicolas Beaudin, Chad Krys and Alec Regula and goaltender Matt Tomkins.
Defenseman Lucas Carlsson, who impressed in his first six NHL appearances before the season stopped in March, was lumped into the NHL regular group.
Blackhawks' lines and pairings in practice today:— Ben Pope (@BenPopeCST) July 13, 2020
That group underwent a diverse 70-minute practice, competing in numerous two-on-two and three-on-two drills before running a brief five-on-five scrimmage and finishing with 20 minutes of continuous lap skating.
For the first official practice in more than four months, it was an intense morning.
“Guys were moving pretty good for not being together for as long as we have,”
defenseman Duncan Keith said. “Everybody knows that when we’re conditioning and training, it’s one thing to be in the gym and on the track, but it’s another thing to be out on the ice skating. We all can’t say that those are the funnest things in the world, but we all know it’s a necessity — especially right now with such a short camp.”
“These guys are pros, and they’re ready,” added Colliton, who donned a mask even while directing practice. “We’re trying to be as smart as we can with the loads. There weren’t a lot of stops and starts. There was a lot of skating.”