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Corey Crawford returns as Blackhawks host Coyotes

The Chicago netminder will make his first start since Dec. 23, 2017.

Arizona Coyotes v Chicago Blackhawks Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

He’s back.

For the first time in 10 months, Corey Crawford will be the starting goaltender for the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday night when they welcome the Arizona Coyotes into the United Center.

Crawford’s move coincided with the demotion of forward Luke Johnson, which made space for Brandon Saad to be in the lineup after the last two practices suggested he might have been a healthy scratch.

But Crawford’s return remains the massive headline in Chicago, and there may not be a softer landing — on paper — for Crawford than the Coyotes, who’ve scored only three goals in their first five games. Two of those goals were scored on the power play and a third was a shorthanded tally by Brad Richardson, which means that Arizona has not scored an even-strength goal this season. Also of note is the plethora of former Blackhawks on the Coyotes roster, including Richard Panik, Vinnie Hinostroza, Niklas Hjalmarsson and Jordan Oesterle.

This wasn’t how the season was supposed to start for Arizona, pegged in the preseason as a team with the potential for a run to the playoffs thanks to a bevy of young talent like recent first-round picks Lawson Crouse, Clayton Keller, Dylan Strome and Brendan Perlini. But injuries to Christian Dvorak and Alex Galchenyuk early this season haven’t helped and Jakob Chychrun remains on the shelf while recovering from a torn ACL last season. It’s added up to another miserable start to a hockey season after Arizona went 0-10-1 to open last season.

In net, the Coyotes have committed to another former Blackhawk in Antti Raanta as their long-term goaltender, signing him to a 3-year, $12.75 million contract in April after Raanta was one of the league’s best goalies in the second half of the 2017-18 season. His goals-against average remains strong at 2.22 through four games, although his save percentage has dipped to .903. Still, it’s hard to find any fault with Raanta while he plays behind a team that quite literally cannot score.

The Blackhawks have been scoring like crazy and the Coyotes haven’t been able to score at all. Add in the return of Crawford, and this seems like as favorable of a matchup as the Blackhawks will have at this stage of the season. With a weekend back-to-back against two strong Eastern Conference teams upcoming, it’d be in the Blackhawks best interest to cash in on these two available points Thursday night.

And doing so in regulation wouldn’t hurt, either.



DeBrincat — Toews — Kahun
Fortin — Schmaltz — Kane
Kunitz — Anisimov — Kampf
Saad — Kruger — Hayden

Keith — Jokiharju
Gustafsson — Seabrook
Rutta — Manning



Keller — Stepan — Panik
Perlini — Strome — Fischer
Grabner — Richardson — Hinostroza
Crouse — Cousins — Archibald

Ekman-Larsson — Demers
Goligoski — Hjalmarsson
Connauton — Oesterle


How to watch

Start time: 7:30 p.m. Central

Location: United Center, Chicago

TV: NBC Sports Chicago