Corey Crawford will return to the Blackhawks this season.
At least coach Joel Quenneville says he is confident about that.
“That’s our expectation and our hope,” Quenneville said Friday after his team returned to the ice for the first time since Sunday.
Though he clarified his stance on whether Crawford would return, Quenneville left the “when” up in the air as the 33-year-old goaltender recovers from what the team deemed an upper-body injury.
Quenneville said Crawford has been in Chicago since he was put on injured reserve Dec. 27, but he refused to offer any more details amid reports earlier this week that the team was concerned he could be out for the season.
“Progress, to me, the next point would be seeing him get ready to get on the ice,” Quenneville said. “So I can say we haven’t seen much progress. That’s where we’re at with that.”
Placing Crawford on long-term injured reserve “is not part of the discussion” at this point, Quenneville said. Crawford has missed 10 games since he was put on IR, making him eligible for such a designation per league rules.
He last played Dec. 23, when he was pulled in the first period of a loss to the Devils after allowing three goals on seven shots. He is 16-9-2 with a .929 save percentage and a 2.27 goals-against average this season.
One report earlier this week suggested Crawford had vertigo-like symptoms, a notion Blackhawks senior adviser and Hockey Hall of Famer Scotty Bowman, father of general manager Stan Bowman, dismissed.
Scotty Bowman said he didn’t have direct knowledge of Crawford’s injury but believed it was concussion-related.
The Blackhawks held firm on their stance of silence regarding Crawford’s condition Friday after the team’s scheduled midseason break.
“We’re not talking about the injury,” Quenneville said after Friday’s practice in preparation for the Hawks returning to action Saturday night against the Islanders at the United Center. “Upper-body, but we don’t discuss injuries. We expect him to be fine.”
Quenneville said he has talked with Crawford since Sunday, when he said before his team’s 4-0 loss that he hadn’t been in communication with him.
Captain Jonathan Toews addressed Crawford’s condition vaguely Sunday, saying he would “do what he can to get himself better, so he can get back to playing … and help our team when he knows how to.”
Toews said Friday he has exchanged a “a few text messages here and there” with Crawford.
When pressed for details, Toews said: “That’s not really my place to talk on any of those matters. We wish him the best in his recovery. If we would get him back, we know he’s always going to be a great addition to our team.”
Patrick Kane took the same line when asked about Crawford.
“We can’t worry about who is hurt or who is out,” Kane said. “Obviously we want ‘Crow’ back, but he has to take care of himself too.
“That’s kind of where we’re at with that situation.”
The situation the Hawks find themselves in now is last place in the Central Division with 50 points. Going into Friday, they were three points out of the second wild-card spot in the Western Conference with four teams ahead of them. The Avalanche have won eight in a row and are 9-1 in their last 10.
“It’s unbelievable how everyone picked up a lot of points over the last few days,” Quenneville said. “It changes quickly.”
The Hawks lost all three games Crawford missed at the beginning of December with an upper-body injury but won five in a row upon his return. They are 5-4-1 since his latest injury but 6-8-4 overall when he doesn’t start.
“That’s out of our control,” Kane said of Crawford’s injury. “We’re just trying to do what we can in here, come together as a group. Whoever’s in here is in here. That’s the group we have to play with.”