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Ex-Blackhawks G Antti Raanta expects big things from Corey Crawford in comeback

If Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford returns to action Thursday night, as expected, staring back at him from the opposite end of the United Center ice could be an old friend — Coyotes No. 1 goalie Antti Raanta, who started 34 games for the Hawks from 2013 to 2015 during his stint as Crawford’s backup.

After a team workout Wednesday at MB Ice Arena, Raanta called Crawford underrated and one of the premier goalies in the NHL. He predicted the toughest tasks for Crawford after a nearly 10-month layoff would be timing and tracking the puck.

“I think it’s kind of like starting the season, [but] you don’t get any preseason games or anything like that,” Raanta said. “It’s for sure tough, but he’s been around the league so many years, so he knows what he has to do. When [he] just gets back into the rhythm, I think it’s going to be OK.”

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Timing and tracking the puck will be the toughest tasks in Corey Crawford's return, according to former teammate Antti Raanta. (Taso Katopodis/Getty Images)

Of course, if Crawford is all thumbs for a while, it wouldn’t be the worst thing for Raanta’s team, which has been shut out three times in its first five games and is last in the league in scoring.

“Hopefully, he’s not perfect straightaway,” the 29-year-old Finland native said with a broad smile, “but obviously it’s going to be great to have him back and to see him on the ice. To hear that he’s doing better, it’s great news. You never want to see anybody get hurt, and when you’re out for 10 months, it’s a long time.”