CHICAGO - After suffering a concussion in mid-December, Corey Crawford returned to Blackhawks practice with at MB Ice Arena Saturday. Crawford's time on the ice wasn't anything extensive. He practiced for roughly 20 minutes before exiting as the rest of the session continued. Nevertheless, having the veteran back in between the pipes was a significant step in his ongoing and complicated recovery.
"Great to see him out there," said head coach Jeremy Colliton. "Obviously, it's a process here. He's not going to get too high or too low, and neither are we. But I'm happy for him that he felt good enough to be on the ice, and we'll see what happens."
Crawford, 34, has 23 starts over the course of the 2018-2019 season. He hasn't featured in any action since that fateful December night after dealing with a variety of concussion issues over the past few years. Given that the Blackhawks are currently on an season high six-game winning streak and in a playoff race at two points out of a Western Conference Wild Card spot, there might be an underlying push to get the former All-Star goaltender back in goal as soon as possible.
But Crawford still has a number of obstacles and benchmarks to clear before the Blackhawks can consider throwing him back out into consistent playing form. Coming back onto the ice for a short practice session is something Colliton and the team insist changes nothing about Crawford's timeline. The Blackhawks all of a sudden being a relevant team in the standings also has no effect on when Crawford is ready to play again.
It's his recovery alone.
"There's a bunch of hurdles, just how he feels after today is probably a hurdle," Colliton said. "But that's the nature of this injury. It's up and down sometimes, you can't explain things. But hopefully he keeps feeling better."
The progress is evident with Crawford. He's been more visible around the Blackhawks in recent weeks doing charity events and is certainly easing his way back into the fold. If he's more vocal and more present around the team, it would theoretically be an indication of a player preparing for a pending workload. But neither the Blackhawks or Crawford are rushing any facet about his return.
This is a hands-off situation for Colliton and company to continue to watch develop over time and work delicately. Crawford himself will determine when he's ready to return, and the Blackhawks will go from there.
"I try to leave him alone. I encourage the others to leave him alone, too," Colliton said of Crawford. "We ask him how he's doing as a human. But I think the last thing he needs is to ask him how he's feeling 35 times a day. It's not helpful."