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Corey Crawford's return to practice could force Blackhawks into difficult decision

Jimmy Greenfield, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Hockey

The chatter began almost immediately after Corey Crawford lay on the United Center ice and it was evident the Blackhawks goalie had suffered another concussion.

With millions in the bank, two Stanley Cup rings on his fingers and a family to enjoy, the 34-year-old Crawford heard calls to wrap up his career rather than put his health at risk.

Only one problem: The idea of retiring never crossed Crawford's mind.

"No, not at all," Crawford said. "I was going to come back as soon as I felt 100 percent. I'm not worried about that. Some guys have to deal with other injuries; it's just what I had to deal with. I feel good, I feel ready. Just going to work our way back into the lineup."

When that will be remains unknown after Crawford participated in a full practice Monday for the first time since suffering his second major concussion in less than a year Dec. 16 against the Sharks.

Crawford went nearly 10 months between games after last season's concussion. But speaking to reporters Monday, he left no doubt he expects to play again this season. He said he has been working out hard for the last week and is "in good shape right now."

 

The biggest obstacle isn't his health but the play of Cam Ward and Collin Delia, who have performed exceptionally in Crawford's absence. Ward is 7-3 with a .912 save percentage in 10 starts since Crawford's injury, while Delia is 6-2-3 with a .923 save percentage in 12 games, including 11 starts.

Crawford and Ward have no-movement clauses that prohibit the Hawks from trading them or sending them to the minors without their permission. Delia can be sent to the minors without having to clear waivers. It's unlikely the Hawks would carry three goalies when Crawford is activated.

Crawford was quick to acknowledge it would seem odd to supplant Ward and Delia during the seven-game winning streak that has put the Hawks back in the playoff picture.

"It's pretty tough to jump in right now," Crawford said. "Deals and Ward have been playing so well, (and) we're on a pretty good streak right now. I would jump in the net right away, but honestly we haven't really discussed that at this point.

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