Corey Crawford participated in practice and an intra-squad scrimmage with the Blackhawks during training camp Saturday for the first time since he recovered from COVID-19.
“I’ve had to quarantine in my place here in Chicago for the last few weeks,” he said, adding he mostly experienced flu-like symptoms. “I’m excited to be back. I’m going to try to get into it as quick as possible and try to get game shape back.”
“I’d say it was a lot tougher at the start. The first few days that I started feeling symptoms that was the hardest. The last couple weeks maybe a little bit more was a little bit easier, but I still couldn’t really do much incase there was something wrong with my lungs or my heart. We had to get that checked out first before I really started pushing in the gym or come on the ice.”
The 35-year-old goaltender added he slept in the guest room and wore a mask around his house during his self-isolation period.
“That was the hardest,” he said. “I was trying to stay as safe as possible with my family. We spent a lot of time at home with two kids.”
Crawford, who was ruled “unfit to play” by coach Jeremy Colliton when training camp started July 13, allowed three goals during a 20-minute period in the scrimmage. Before the scrimmage, Crawford took shots from goaltending coach Jimmy Waite, assistants Sheldon Brookbank and Tomas Mitell and teammates.
“Today felt decent for my first time on the ice and I’m just going to try to build off that,” Crawford said. “Doing the goalie drills, pushing around the crease, it felt great. It’s just a little bit more the cardio part, the endurance in the legs. After I get a few practices, that’ll be a lot better. Obviously, there’s not much time, but I’ve never really been someone who skates a ton in the summer anyway. But I feel like it takes a few practices just to get your legs under you. It doesn’t matter what you do in the gym.”
Crawford, who missed 80 games the previous two seasons because of concussions, was 16-20-3 with a 2.77 goals-against average and .917 save percentage in 40 games before the NHL paused the season March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus.
“It was great to have him out there,” Colliton said. “The guys were happy to see him and he got right into the net. He got some work in with Jimmy so that’s a positive and we’ll get him ready as soon as we can.
“The challenge is to do what we can to prepare him to be ready, and we don’t need to make that decision right now,” Colliton said. “His first day back, the biggest thing is feeling the puck and getting comfortable and getting his game legs back. I’m not going to critique things on Day 1 here, but we don’t have a lot of time. We have some urgency, but he knows that, and he’s been through it before, as far as trying to come back off an injury and get right in. We’ll keep going on that process.”
The Blackhawks submitted their 31-man roster Friday and included Crawford. Colliton said Friday the Blackhawks would not reveal their final roster until the NHL announced it. General manager Stan Bowman said earlier this week the Blackhawks players who travel to Edmonton will be the group for the entire postseason, barring any emergency circumstances.
The Blackhawks fly to Edmonton on Sunday ahead of their exhibition game against the Blues on July 29 and their best-of-five qualifier series against the Oilers, which starts Aug. 1. The series winner will advance to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, while the loser and the other seven teams eliminated from the qualifiers will have an equal chance (12.5 percent) at the No. 1 pick in the 2020 NHL Draft in the Second Phase of the NHL Draft Lottery on Aug. 10. The 2020 NHL Draft is set for Oct. 9-10.
When Crawford was absent from training camp, the Blackhawks rotated three goaltenders (Malcolm Subban, Collin Delia, Kevin Lankinen) in with the main practice group. Subban has the most NHL experience among the trio, and is the only one to have played in the NHL this season. He was 9-7-3 with a 3.17 GAA and .890 save percentage with Vegas before he was acquired in exchange for Robin Lehner on Feb. 24. Subban did not face a shot in 70 seconds of relief for Chicago on March 3.
“We’ll know it when we see it,” Colliton said about what he needs to see to know Crawford can start Game 1. “[Waite] works closely with the goaltenders and we’re preparing all of them for the challenge of playing. We’ll see how things look once we get closer. When you have time, you should use it, so that’s what we’re going to do. We’ll allow things to play out.”