CHICAGO — There was a familiar and welcome sight on the ice at Fifth Third Arena on Saturday morning: Corey Crawford.
The Chicago Blackhawks’ top goaltender returned to the ice after missing nearly all of training camp. It’s another sign Crawford will be joining the team when they travel to Edmonton, Alberta, on Sunday ahead of their play-in series against the Oilers, which begins Aug. 1.
“I tested positive for COVID, so I had to quarantine in my place here the last few weeks,” he said. “That was the case for my absence at camp. I’m excited to be back. Try and get into it as quick as possible and try and get in game shape there.”
Crawford had been ruled “unfit to participate” all camp. He described his symptoms as “flu-like”.
“I’d say it was a lot tougher at the start,” he said. “The first few days I started feeling symptoms, that was the hardest. The last couple of weeks was maybe a little bit easier.
“I still couldn’t really do much in case there was something wrong with my lungs or my heart. We had to get that checked out first before I really started pushing in the gym more or come on the case. All that has been done. I’m just excited to be seeing pucks again.”
Coach Jeremy Colliton called Crawford’s case uncharted territory: “We listened to the medical team and the guidelines that had been set.”
Crawford and Connor Murphy greeted each other on the first rink, then Crawford stretched and skated alone on the second rink. He then took part in drills with fellow goaltender Collin Delia and coaches.
During the first scrimmage, Crawford gave up three goals in fairly quick succession — the first to Brent Seabrook, who slid on the ice and pumped his fist. Brandon Hagel and Reese Johnson scored the other goals.
In the other net, Malcolm Subban shut out a collection of top-six forwards. Collin Delia and Kevin Lankinen faced off in the second scrimmage.
Sportsnet.ca’s Mark Spector reported Friday that Crawford was among the 31 names the Hawks submitted to the NHL for their roster. The official announcement will come from the league, but there was no word as of Saturday.
Crawford’s return would be at least an emotional boost for the team, but the question remains whether he can get up to speed in time to play against the Oilers.
Before Crawford’s return to the ice, Colliton said: “It’s our job to get him ready as quickly as we can. And we’ll go from there.”
Subban has 60 starts scattered over five NHL seasons, while Delia has 18 over two seasons, with the majority coming in 2018-19.
The Hawks plan to practice Sunday after landing in Edmonton, take Monday off, then practice Tuesday in preparation for their exhibition game against the Blues on Wednesday.
Jonathan Toews marveled at the situation Crawford and the Hawks find themselves in.
“What can you do? It is what it is,” Toews said Thursday. “Give Crow credit, he’s always risen to the occasion. When he’s gotten in tight spots or when he’s been hurt, he comes back and plays great. I laugh because the amount of preparation that a guy like me needs to go play at my best as opposed to a guy like Crow who can just pop in there, it’s almost the expectation for him.
“And at the same time, it’s not really fair. But we do feel confident in Subby, we do feel confident in Deals. Those guys are ready for the opportunity. They’ve played well when they’ve gotten NHL starts before.
“That’s’ all we can really do is play our best defense hockey, help out our goaltenders.”
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