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Corey Crawford concussion: Blackhawks believe he’ll play once out of protocol

Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford remains in the concussion protocol, but there is no assumption within the organization that his season is over. He is on injured reserve while he heals, and coach Jeremy Colliton said he anticipates Crawford playing once he’s medically cleared.

The team will proceed with veteran Cam Ward and youngster Collin Delia while it waits on Crawford. Delia made his second start of the year in the 5-2 victory against the visiting Wild.

Crawford has been out since suffering a concussion Dec. 16 against the Sharks. The Hawks put him on IR the next day, and he was eligible to return beginning with the Wild game.

Colliton has given minimal information on Crawford’s status and all he offered Thursday was: “Nothing on Crow.”

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - DECEMBER 14: Corey Crawford #50 of the Chicago Blackhawks makes a save against Blake Wheeler #26 of the Winnipeg Jets at the United Center on December 14, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) ORG XMIT: 775220780

Crawford is a two-time All-Star who has been the Hawks’ starter since 2010-11. He was having one of the best seasons of his career last year before a concussion forced him to step away in December and miss the final 47 games.

Before his injury this season, he had a .902 save percentage and 3.28 goals-against average.

Ward had two superb games after Crawford went on IR, and Delia stopped 35 of 36 shots to beat the Avalanche on Friday before he stopped 46 of 48 against the Wild.

Colliton said performance will dictate who plays until Crawford comes back, and Ward struggled in the loss to Florida on Sunday. That led to Delia getting the start Thursday.

“He played really well the last time he was in and we want to have competition, so he deserves the chance to play again,” Colliton said of Delia. “Excited for that to see how he performs.”

Manning can’t crack lineup

Defenseman Brandon Manning established himself as a rotation player the last three seasons with the Flyers and surely expected a significant role when he signed a two-year deal to join the Hawks this year.

It hasn’t happened. Manning has been a healthy scratch for the last seven games.

It’s more about the current group jelling rather than Manning performing poorly at this point. He’s unlikely to get back on the ice soon unless someone falters or gets hurt. The Hawks got Gustav Forsling back from injury a week ago and have been impressed by minor-league call-up Carl Dahlstrom.

“Right now, it’s a bit of a case that the guys who are in have played really well,” Colliton said. “We like our ‘D’ group currently and we’ve had some success results-wise. We weren’t good last game, but I think they all deserve a chance to come back and respond. It’s up to them to do that.”

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Kruger moving toward return

Hawks center Marcus Kruger also went on IR during the team’s rough run of concussions this month. He’s been out since Dec. 18 and was eligible to play against the Wild, but he didn’t dress.

Kruger was on the ice for the morning skate Thursday and looked good. Colliton said the staff is still evaluating whether he’s good to go. He has four goals and one assist while averaging 10:45 on the ice per game.