CHICAGO — Corey Crawford could return for the Chicago Blackhawks this season even though they have deemed him “unfit to play” through the first four practice days of training camp, coach Jeremy Colliton said Friday.
“I mean, for now there’s no change, but [we] certainly haven’t ruled him out going forward,” Colliton said.
As part of the NHL Return to Play Plan, a team is not permitted to disclose player injury or illness information. Crawford has not participated in camp, which began Monday, and didn’t take part in the Blackhawks’ voluntary workouts that began June 8.
Chicago, which is preparing to face the Edmonton Oilers in a Stanley Cup Qualifier series, has four goalies participating in camp (Malcolm Subban, Collin Delia, Kevin Lankinen and Matt Tomkins). Subban, Delia and Lankinen have rotated during practice. The Blackhawks were off Thursday.
Subban has the most NHL experience of those three; he’s 30-23-7 with a 2.97 GAA and .899 save percentage in 66 games with the Boston Bruins, Vegas Golden Knights and Blackhawks, who acquired him from the Golden Knights in a trade for goalie Robin Lehner on Feb. 24. Subban was 9-7-3 with a 3.17 GAA and .890 save percentage in 21 games (19 starts) this season.
Delia is 7-5-3 with a 3.65 GAA and .906 save percentage in 18 NHL games, all with the Blackhawks, and has not played in an NHL game this season. Lankinen does not have any NHL experience.
Neither Subban nor Delia has played in a Stanley Cup Playoff game.
“It could obviously end up being the opportunity of a lifetime,” Subban said Wednesday. “For me, it’s just taking it day by day and continuing to work hard and make sure I’m ready if I get an opportunity.”
Crawford was 16-20-3 with a 2.77 goals-against average and .917 save percentage in 40 games (39 starts) before the season was paused March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus. He is 260-162-53 with a 2.45 GAA and .918 save percentage in 488 NHL games, all with the Blackhawks. A pending unrestricted free agent who won the Stanley Cup with Chicago in 2013 and 2015, the 35-year-old was healthy this season after missing 80 games the previous two seasons because of concussions.
The Blackhawks (32-30-8, .514 points percentage) enter the Qualifiers as the No. 12 seed in the Western Conference; the Oilers (37-25-9, .585) are the No. 5 seed. Game 1 of their best-of-5 series is Aug. 1 at Rogers Place in Edmonton, the hub city for the 12 Western teams. The winner will advance to the playoffs, and the loser will have a chance at the No. 1 pick in the 2020 NHL Draft in the Second Phase of the NHL Draft Lottery, to be held Aug. 10. The Blackhawks will play the St. Louis Blues in an exhibition game July 29.
Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane said he’d have confidence in either Subban, who was a first-round pick (No. 24) by the Bruins in the 2012 NHL Draft, or Delia taking over for Crawford.
“I know Delia came up and played with us a couple of years ago and he was lights out,” Kane said. “He’s so athletic, so good side to side. His quickness is probably something that’s really impressive. Same thing with Subban. Just shooting on him in [the voluntary workouts] there a lot, you realize how athletic he is, how quick he is. If you make a couple of moves on [a goalie], deke him, you usually have ability to lift the puck up and put it in the net if it’s on a breakaway or something. He’s a guy who gets over really fast and makes it tough for you to deke him. So you can see where his talent level is and why he was drafted so high, why he’s a guy who could step in and do a really good job for us. I think they both seem very confident as goaltenders, which is obviously very important.
“Obviously, we’d love to have [Crawford] here, would love to have him back. He’s been an amazing goaltender for the longest time here. But if he’s not able to go, I think we have confidence that one of those guys can step up.”