Every solo session Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford has had with goaltending coach Jimmy Waite is a sign of improvement.
But even though Crawford has progressed, that doesn’t mean he’ll be ready to play anytime soon.
Coach Joel Quenneville said Monday that it “might be stretching it” to expect Crawford to be ready to start opening night Oct. 4 in Ottawa. The Hawks’ star goalie hasn’t practiced with the team since his dismal morning skate Feb. 13 in Arizona.
Although Crawford’s workouts have been without contact and he has faced only low-velocity shots, Quenneville said Crawford might reunite with his teammates this weekend.
But the Hawks are being cautious.
“He’s going to be more than ready before he gets injected into practice,” Quenneville said. “And that’ll probably be the same mindset to play again.”
With Crawford presumably out of the mix for the opener, the Hawks will turn to Cam Ward, who signed a one-year, $3 million deal July 1.
But it’s too early to say whether Collin Delia or Anton Forsberg will back up Ward. Both have had strong showings in camp.
Delia played the majority of last season with Rockford, posting a 2.72 goals-against average and .900 save percentage in 28 regular-season games. He shined in the Calder Cup playoffs with a .924 save percentage.
In his preseason debut Friday against the Senators, Delia stopped 17 of 19 shots. Quenneville was impressed with the 23-year-old’s poise.
“He’s done a real good job,” Quenneville said. “[Last season] was a good year for him as far as getting stabilized and being a pro and getting a lot of net and did a really good job of getting the team in the playoffs last year. He’s coming off a special game the other night, and he can do some pretty neat things.”
Forsberg has more NHL experience, having served as Crawford’s backup last season. Forsberg had an inconsistent year for the Hawks, finishing 10-16. But he believes he has found his balance this summer.
“I feel like last year I had a lot of good games [and] I had a lot of really bad games,” said Forsberg, who had a 2.97 goals-against average and .908 save percentage in 35 games last season. “And I feel like I just have to find my consistency.”
Quenneville wasn’t ready to name a backup to Ward.
“We’ll see how it all plays out,” he said. “Those things are going to get answered for us either by performance or time.
“We’re in a winning business. Sometimes it’s who’s more deserving. But we know with goalies, time is beneficial. At the same time, if a young kid’s ready to go, we don’t want to get in their way.”
NOTE: Defenseman Gustav Forsling, who had surgery on his wrist this offseason, worked on skating, stick handling and shooting during a conditioning session before the team practice. Coach Joel Quenneville said Forsling still isn’t expected to return until November.