Thank the hockey gods: Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford is set to return quickly from a lower-body injury, suiting up tonight against the Buffalo Sabres
If you didn’t think the Chicago Blackhawks were feeling a sense of desperation, that notion is entirely out the window now.
The Blackhawks will start goaltender Corey Crawford tonight, just a week after he went on injured reserve with a lower-body injury. Coach Joel Quenneville had lobbied a guess earlier this week that Crow would be ready Sunday against Arizona, but I don’t think anyone around the organization will complain about a speedier timeline.
Thankfully, the Chicago Sun-Times’ Mark Lazerus asked Q what we were all thinking after today’s morning skate:
I have no doubt Crow said he was ready to go, but he’d probably say that right now if one of his arms had fallen off. The Blackhawks just do not look good of late, and while some of that has to do with a more crowded schedule, the Blackhawks really can’t afford to fall further out of the postseason picture, even in December.
Sending a message
That Crow is coming back so quickly from an injury that required IR time is even more interesting given the slate of upcoming opponents.
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The Blackhawks play the NHL’s three worst teams in their next three games, all at home. It’s Buffalo tonight, Arizona on Sunday and Florida on Tuesday. But the organization seems well aware that playoff teams often start slotting themselves in around this time, also evidenced by the call-up up Vinnie Hinostroza today.
The Blackhawks may not ride Crow super hard out of the gate, though. Anton Forsberg will probably get some run in one of the two games after tonight, simply because the Blackhawks are playing bad teams at home, and because Crow is coming off an injury.
But the message here cannot be ignored: The Blackhawks are already chasing points. And this isn’t the typical Q chasing points in October and November because he can. This the Blackhawks chasing points because they aren’t winning enough.
Hinostroza will slot into the lineup tonight, per Q. That makes all the sense in the world, as there would be no reason to call him up if they were just going to bench him.
Let’s turn to Lazerus again for insight from Q on where Hinostroza fits in this group:
There’s a good chance this is an actual game-time decision for Q. Lazerus suggested Ryan Hartman would be the odd man out. For my money, I think Patrick Sharp should get a breather.
Regardless, the Blackhawks are going to get a kick of speed on the bottom six, which is much needed. I’d prefer Hinostroza play wing tonight, just so he doesn’t have to worry about quite so much stuff right as he gets back to the NHL.
It’s just good the Blackhawks are trying something different that isn’t Hartman and John Hayden playing with Jonathan Toews on a “top line.” This is a change that can actually help the Blackhawks. Hopefully Hinostroza can take advantage.