Corey Crawford’s absence continues to loom large over Blackhawks’ season
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By the time the Blackhawks return to practice Friday, goalie Corey Crawford will have been out for four weeks, with no end to his absence in sight.
The team has stayed almost aggressively tight-lipped about his situation, deeming it only an ‘‘upper-body injury’’ and offering absolutely no timetable for his return. All coach Joel Quenneville would allow is that Crawford will be back at some point this season.
Anton Forsberg and Jeff Glass have done yeoman’s work in the last few weeks, but neither is near Crawford’s level.
‘‘Obviously, you’re missing him,’’ Quenneville said. ‘‘He’s been arguably our key player all year, and [with] the consistency he’s given us in the net, we know how valuable the position is and what it means to your team. It’s almost like, ‘Oh, that’s a tremendous hole.’ As a team, you have to make an awareness that, hey, you have to contribute on the defensive side of things a little more.’’
That didn’t happen in a 4-0 loss Sunday to the Red Wings. Glass wasn’t sharp at all, but he got very little help from his teammates, especially on the two quick goals by the Red Wings early in the first period that sucked the life out of the United Center.
First, Dylan Larkin scored from the low slot, one-timing a nifty pass from Andreas Athanasiou from behind the net past Glass at 4:08. Barely two minutes later, Mike Green one-timed a pass from Anthony Mantha from the left circle to make it 2-0. The Hawks around the net were lost and getting pushed around on both.
‘‘We gave them two goals,’’ Quenneville said. ‘‘Terrible coverage.’’
Said captain Jonathan Toews: ‘‘Our goaltenders have been playing great. . . . They’ve done more than we can ask. It’s up to us to carry our part of the load right now.’’
That said, having Crawford back for the stretch run is critical to the Hawks’ playoff hopes.
‘‘We’re always concerned about our teammates first and then our team second,’’ Toews said. ‘‘Crow knows he’s trying to get better. He’s one of those guys that we know we can rely upon as a person, as a teammate. He’ll do what he can to get himself better, so he can get back to playing and get back to helping our team.’’
The long bright spot Sunday was another excellent effort by the Hawks’ penalty-kill unit. They were a perfect 4-for-4 against the Red Wings and have killed off 20 consecutive opposing power plays.
‘‘Just finding a way to get the job done,’’ forward Tommy Wingels said. ‘‘Is every one pretty? Is every one completely killed off with no chances against? No. But it’s about, at the end of the day, just getting it done, communicating, believing in our system and executing. Yeah, we’ll feel good about that, but it’s the result that we’re disappointed in.’’
Newcomer Anthony Duclair saw some time on the top line with Toews and Brandon Saad to start the second period, then again for a bit in the third as Quenneville tried to jump-start his sluggish team. He also was on the top power-play unit for the second consecutive game since being acquired from the Coyotes for Richard Panik.
Duclair said Friday he was surprised to get power-play time right away.
‘‘I was, actually,’’ he said. ‘‘All the big guys they have here . . . it was nice to get out there, for sure.’’
Follow me on Twitter @MarkLazerus.