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Blackhawks’ Corey Crawford to return from 10-month absence vs. Coyotes

Chicago’s starting netminder will be back in game action Thursday.

NHL: Minnesota Wild at Chicago Blackhawks Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Corey Crawford will be back between the pipes Thursday for the first time since suffering a concussion last December. Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville said Crawford will start Thursday against the Coyotes (1-4) at the United Center.

Crawford, 33, tried to come back in February, but was shut down after participating in a morning skate with the team in Arizona. Quenneville and other members of the Blackhawks brass continued to stay quiet and offer little updates on Crawford’s conditions until the netminder himself said he wasn’t 100 percent in July at the team’s fan convention.

Crawford returned to team practices Oct. 1, and Quenneville said the goaltender was medically cleared to play. The next day, Quenneville said he was optimistic Crawford would return Oct. 18 against the Coyotes.

Prior to his concussion last season, Crawford posted some of the best numbers of his career with a 16-9-2 record and a 2.27 goals-against average and .929 save percentage.

The Blackhawks have leaned on veteran Cam Ward, who signed a one-year contract worth $3 million in the offseason with Chicago, in net through the first five games this season. Ward posted a 3-0-2 record with a 4.06 GAA and .879 save percentage in those games that included a back-to-back.

Despite the 34-year-old Ward being well past his prime and a back-to-back in the schedule, goaltender Anton Forsberg hasn’t played this season. The 25-year-old Forsberg was 10-16-4 with a 2.97 GAA and .908 save percentage last season in the NHL. He suffered a minor injury during the morning skate before Chicago’s season opener Oct. 4 in Ottawa. It wasn’t too significant, but the Blackhawks did recall Collin Delia from the AHL to back up Ward that night.

The Blackhawks assigned forward Luke Johnson to the AHL to create a roster spot for Crawford. Johnson, a 2013 fifth-round draft pick, did not record a point in three games.

Quenneville previously said he didn’t want to carry three goalies on the active roster, but Thursday he said Forsberg will remain with the team for now. In order for Forsberg to be sent down to the AHL, he’ll have to clear waivers first. There’s no guarantee the other 30 NHL teams will pass on him and let him head to the Rockford IceHogs. If he does get claimed, Forsberg must be on the NHL roster for at least 10 games and/or 30 days before being eligible to go through the waiver process again.