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Blackhawks prioritize Collin Delia while waiting for Corey Crawford

ST. PAUL, Minn. — The Blackhawks are still hoping for Corey Crawford’s return, but until then, their priority is developing Collin Delia.

While it’s not obvious who the starter is between Delia and Cam Ward, only one is a candidate to be their goaltender of the future. Hawks coach Jeremy Colliton shifted slightly from his original position that whoever plays better will hold down the job.

“It’s somewhat performance-based, but we want to make sure Delia gets the right amount of work,” he said before the game against the Wild on Saturday. “We feel comfortable with both goalies.”

Colliton has a pattern of playing Delia a few games in a row, then giving him a break to collect himself and zero in on any issues. He also intends to split up back-to-backs and did so this weekend with Ward facing the Sabres on Friday and Delia taking the Wild game.

Collin Delia will get "the right amount of work" while Corey Crawford is out. | Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Ward was excellent in his start against the Islanders to close the first half of the season and came out of the All-Star break with another strong game to beat the Sabres. He held those teams to a total of five goals and posted a .937 save percentage.

Ward’s overall numbers (3.83 goals-against average, .890 save percentage) aren’t great, but he has come through several times despite playing behind one of the worst defenses in the NHL. His 40 saves on 43 shots against the Sabres bumped his record to 9-8-4.

“He’s been really good,” Colliton said. “You can’t say enough about him, his character and leadership and presence as an older guy. We need that.”

Colliton gave no update on Crawford, who has been out since suffering a concussion Dec. 16. He reiterated that the organization wants him to play this season if he is medically cleared.

Caggiula catches on

Everything has flipped for Drake Caggiula. He went from being an Oilers’ discard to thriving on the Blackhawks’ top line with Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews.

It took awhile to get his bearings with the Hawks, but he broke through for his first goal Friday. Toews and Kane could make any third forward look good, but it’s a particularly advantageous role for Caggiula.

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“My game isn’t really to be the driver of the line. It’s more to be a supporting guy,” he said. “If I’m winning loose pucks and creating opportunities and causing some traffic in front of the net, those guys roam around and create their plays.

“I’m able to find little holes and be able to get open and get shots to the net. Playing with those types of guys, I just have to worry about playing my game, and it allows me to do what I’m capable of doing.”

Caggiula got modest ice time before Colliton tried him with Kane and Toews shortly before the All-Star break. Since the move, he has averaged nearly 18 minutes and is a plus-4.