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Corey Crawford’s return imminent, but will it be too late to save Blackhawks?

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Corey Crawford’s return is imminent. But is it too late to matter?

The Blackhawks goaltender didn’t come to Minnesota with the rest of the team, but he’ll meet them in Arizona. Monday’s morning skate will be the first time he’ll be on the ice with his teammates, seeing live shots, since Dec. 23. He has been on injured reserve since the Christmas break with what sources said is a head injury.

Crawford won’t play in Arizona or Las Vegas, but coach Joel Quenneville was optimistic that he would return to action in the very near future. The Hawks have a five-game homestand starting Thursday against the Ducks.

“We’re hopeful that it’s next week or soon, right after,” Quenneville said.

Corey Crawford hasn't played since Dec. 23. (Getty Images)

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Earlier in the week, Quenneville didn’t rule out Crawford playing every game down the stretch if he’s healthy, pointing out that he did it before in the 2010-11 season, when he played the final 34 games of the year.

But he also cautioned against deeming Crawford the savior of the season.

“We’re not looking any further than the short term of where we’re at,” Quenneville said. “The urgency of trying to win one game has been tough on us lately. Let’s get a win to get excited and then go on from there.

“Looking down the road, it’s too far to even anticipate where we’re going to be at [when Crawford returns]. And we wouldn’t -expect him to be the one guy that’s -going to get it all done.”

Crawford was 16-9-2 with a sparkling .929 save percentage before he was -injured. In his absence, Anton Forsberg and Jeff Glass have combined to post a .910 save percentage.

Follow me on Twitter @MarkLazerus.

Email: mlazerus@suntimes.com