The fact that Corey Crawford was able to get on the ice for a third straight day Monday is great news for a Chicago Blackhawks team trying desperately to make a run for a 10th straight postseason berth.
But anyone who watched Crawford during drills at MB Ice Arena with coach Jimmy Waite can tell the goaltender is not close to returning to game action.
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The skinny: Calgary snapped a six-game losing streak Saturday by defeating the Blackhawks 4-3 in overtime. Sean Monahan scored the game-winning goal 59 seconds into extra time. The Flames also beat the Hawks 4-3 in OT on Dec. 31. … Calgary is 4 points ahead of the Blackhawks in the wild-card race. … Johnny Gaudreau has at least 1 point in 14 of the last 16 games. He leads the team with 59 points, seventh in the NHL through Monday’s games. … Former Hawks forward Troy Brouwer has just 3 goals and 12 assists. He had 13 goals and 12 assists in 74 games with the Flames last season.
Next: Dallas Stars at United Center, 7:30 p.m. Thursday
— John Dietz
Crawford, who has been on injured reserve since Dec. 27, moved slowly and deliberately while taking shots from all over the ice for at least 30 minutes.
“With anybody’s recovery, there’s always a process,” said coach Joel Quenneville, who hopes Crawford can begin practicing with the team in about a week. “You always want to push it as much as you can. When it’s time, it’s time. You want to make sure you’re 100 percent ready to go.”
Crawford is believed to be suffering from vertigo or post-concussion syndrome. All of the shots Waite fired at him were below the waist.
One drill featured Waite firing 15 pucks in succession at Crawford from the point. In another, Crawford began facing away from Waite, then turned to face an in-close attempt. Crawford also worked a bit on retrieving pucks from behind his net.
Quenneville said once Crawford returns to practice, “I don’t think it’ll be too far away” before he could return to game action.
Reading between the lines, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Crawford return Feb. 17 against Washington or Feb. 19 against Los Angeles.
“It’s great news,” Patrick Kane said. “Obviously he’s a great goaltender, big piece of team, love to have him back. Can’t be sitting around waiting for him, though.”
That’s for sure.
The Hawks, who host Calgary on Tuesday, remain 5 points out of the second wild-card spot and also have three teams to leap over. They are 7-7-3 with Jeff Glass and Anton Forsberg in net, 16-9-2 with Crawford.
Quenneville and Kane both said the team plays the same no matter who is in net, but Connor Murphy and Brandon Saad both admitted Crawford’s presence makes a difference.
“I wouldn’t say you approach games differently or you should play differently, but it does make an impact in the game when you have one of the best goalies in the league in net,” Murphy said. “And that’s nothing against anyone that we have.
“It’s just the way it is. Crow’s an all-star.”
Said Saad: “He is who he is for a reason. He’s one of the best goalies in the world and we’re happy to have him. You could see early on in the year — even when we’re not at our best — he kind of steals some games for us.”
Glass, who made 35 saves Saturday in Calgary, will start in the rematch against the Flames. Calgary, which had lost six in a row before beating the Hawks in overtime, has 60 points and is one of the four teams the Hawks are chasing.
“The reality is we’ve almost got to think we’ve got to win every single night,” Quenneville said. “We’re behind it to a different level than we’ve been in the past. Everybody in our division in the last 10 games probably picked up 5 points on us, and that was ground that we can’t give up. It’s not going to be easy to get back.
“That’s the reality of the situation. But we swing that the other way, you can make up a ton of ground by getting hot and putting a 7-2-1 (stretch together) in 10 games or 8-2.
“Something like that can change the whole picture.”
As could the return of a certain goaltender, as long as the Hawks don’t fade too far from the postseason picture.