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Quenneville hopeful Corey Crawford can return before playoffs

Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford, recovering from an upper-body injury, was on the ice for the first time since March 16 when he did individual work before practice Saturday. (Billy Hurst/AP)

Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford, out since March 17 with an upper-body injury, took the first overt step on the road to his return Saturday, participating in individual drills before practice at Johnny’s IceHouse West.

Coach Joel Quenneville was encouraged by the work and is hopeful Crawford can return before the end of the regular season.

“He felt good the last couple of days — good to see him on the ice,” Quenneville said: “[He was] good while he was out there and good afterward. Big first step and I think he did a good job with it.”

Crawford had not been on the ice since the injury was announced on  March 17. Scott Darling will make his ninth consecutive start on Sunday against the Boston Bruins.

“We’ll have a better idea [about Crawford’s availability], but we expect him at some point hopefully he gets in a game before [the playoffs],” Quenneville said.

Darling is 4-3-1 with a .912 save percentage and 2.64 goals-against average in his eight consecutive starts in place of Crawford.

“I think he’s had a couple of OK games, but for the most part, he’s been good,” Quenneville said when asked how Darling was holding up in the most extensive stint in his NHL career.

In other Hawks news, Andrew Shaw is “day-to-day” with an upper-body injury and will not play against the Bruins. Quenneville indicated it is not a long-term injury.

Marian Hossa, who missed Friday night’s 5-4 overtime victory against the Winnipeg Jets because of an illness, participated in Saturday’s option practice and will play against the Bruins.