CHICAGO – There were 40 players on the Blackhawks’ training camp roster that was released on Monday, and every one of them was on the ice for the first practice except for one.
Yet this sole player presents quite a problem for the team if they hope to make some noise in the NHL’s Return to Play Tournament next month.
Goaltender Corey Crawford was noticably absent from the opening day of summer training camp. Due to new regulations concerning the reporting of player injuries or illnesses during the panedmic, there wasn’t much that head coach Jeremy Colliton was able to say.
“Today Corey’s unfit to play or participate,” said the head coach of the goalie, and didn’t elaborate much on when or if he’d return.
It’s a major blow for the Blackhawks who face the prospect of playing without their top goaltender for their preliminary round series against the Oilers in Edmonton starting on August 1st.
After the trade of Robin Lehner, who was part of a rotation in net for Colliton, Crawford started the next eight games before the season was stopped due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A starter on two of the three Blackhawks’ Stanley Cup championship teams last decade, the goalie has played in 40 contests in 2019-2020, sporting a 2.77 goals against average.
General manager Stan Bowman wasn’t able to provide much more clarity than Colliton as to how long Crawford may be out.
“The way were handling this is were looking at the guys that are here and ready to play. When Corey’s in that group, we’ll talk about Corey. The focus today was to get ourselves back going. We’ve got four goaltenders here; the goal is to be prepared when the time is right. We’ve got some time , certainly, our first game isn’t for several weeks here.
“That’s a tough one to speculate on.”
With that in mind, the Blackhawks now move on in camp with the four other goaltenders on the ice: Collin Delia, Kevin Lankinen, Malcolm Subban, and Matt Tomkins. Subban is only one to have appeared in a game during the 2019-2020 season, having played in four contest with the Golden Knights before being traded to the Blackhawks and then one since joining the team.
For now, this is the group that Colliton will look to as replacements for Crawford, whether in the short or long term.
“We told them its gonna be based on how they perform, and they’re all going to be given equal opportunity” said Colliton. “At the end, we’re going to have to make a decision, but we want those guys to make it as difficult as possible.”
Though it’s already tough enough looking for a new top goaltender after a four month layoff.