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‘He looks good’: Blackhawks’ road trip helps goalie Corey Crawford’s recovery

ST. LOUIS — A few nights on the road helped Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford when it came to his own road back from a concussion.

From Ottawa to St. Louis, Crawford participated in all three of the Hawks’ practices, the final one coming before his teammates faced the Blues at the Enterprise Center on Saturday night.

“I just think the last two weeks since he’s been out here with us every day, he just continues to feel good every single day,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “He looks good in the net. And after practices, he’s good as well.

“So that’s real good progress, and if he continues on his path, we’re hoping that in a week or so, you’ll get a better idea of how close he is.”

Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford practiced three times on their first road trip. | Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford is struggling. | Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

The Hawks still have Oct. 18 against the Hurricanes targeted for Crawford’s return. He last played on Dec. 23, 2017, a 4-1 loss against the Devils in New Jersey.  He allowed three goals on seven shots in 13:22 before being replaced by Anton Forsberg in net.

When Crawford returns, Quenneville said the team would be mindful of his workload. It’s unfair to expect him to be the workhorse he’s been in the past, especially in the early going.

“We’ll watch him,” Quenneville said. “Long term, that’s the goal is to get him playing [frequently], but we’ll see immediately how he’s handling it.”

For now, the Hawks are simply encouraged by Crawford’s progress. He handled the routine of the Hawks’ road trip and three strenuous practices well. Quenneville said he sees a goalie who is getting back into game shape.

“He was doing conditioning along this process, too,” said Quenneville, who talks with Crawford after every practice. “I think his conditioning is going to be fine. It’s just the whole timing thing and traffic [in goal]. Building up some more conditioning as we go along here, he should be able to be fine throughout a whole game.”

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Finding his spot

Rookie defenseman Henri Jokiharju, the Hawks’ first-round pick in 2017, was paired with veteran Duncan Keith for the second game in row.

“Obviously, it’s a big thing for me,” Jokiharju said.

With a 16-year age difference between them, Quenneville said Keith can be a “stabilizing” presence for Jokiharju from shift to shift.

Jokiharju said he watched Keith growing up in Finland. He also talked about him with his father, who played professionally in their home country. Keith’s ability to routinely reach 30 minutes of ice time in games always impressed him.

“I watched him to see how he can do it, the small things,” Jokiharju said. “[It was] what he’s doing on the ice to save his energy.”

Staying the course

Quenneville stuck with the same active lineup against the Blues from the Hawks’ season-opening win in Ottawa. Defenseman Brandon Davidson and center John Hayden were scratched.

But Quenneville indicated that changes were coming for the home opener against the Maple Leafs on Sunday.

The most obvious change is expected in goal. With Cam Ward playing against the Blues, Forsberg is expected to start at the United Center.

Forsberg was ruled out against the Senators after being struck by a puck in the morning practice, but he replaced Collin Delia as Ward’s backup on Saturday. Delia was assigned to the Rockford IceHogs on Friday.