Blackhawks Notes: Crawford Injured, Stalberg & Smith Progressing?

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While the Blackhawks will not take the ice in earnest again until Thursday night against the Winnipeg Jets, there are several news updates that have come out in the past few days.

Corey Crawford Sits Out Monday Practice 

Goaltender Corey Crawford missed practice on Monday with a minor lower body injury. He was hampered by a sore groin toward the end of training camp, and it is possible that he could have aggravated it in his back-to-back starts on Friday and Saturday against Dallas.

For his part, Joel Quenneville simply described Crawford’s absence as an extra maintenance day, and said that he should be out and practicing with the team tomorrow.

Ben Smith Resumes Practicing 

In what can only be described as some very good news, Hawks forward Ben Smith resumed practicing with the Hawks on Monday. He has been out since taking a shot to the head from Detroit Red Wings farmhand Brendan Smith during the preseason, but has been skating on his own and while he still doesn’t have a definitive timetable for his return, it is good that he is back on the ice after missing the last several days.

Viktor Stalberg Back Skating 

Injured in the team’s September 28th preseason tilt against the Red Wings, Stalberg resumed skating on his own before Monday’s practice. Quenneville expressed hope that he will be ready for a full practice at some point in the next couple of days.

Other Thoughts On Opening Weekend: 

-Patrick Kane has looked really solid at the center spot in the team’s first two games. He did get moved to wing briefly on Friday when the Hawks were having trouble putting the puck in the net, but he has been more than respectable in the face-off dot (winning 53.3% of his draws, one percentage point better than Jonathan Toews) and also has two assists in two games. He is also averaging 21 minutes of ice time per game, so it’s pretty clear that he’s fully healed from his wrist injury.

-Another player who has really stood out on the ice early this season has been Marian Hossa. He has always been known as a guy who is a tremendous puck possessor and nearly impossible to out-muscle along the boards, but he has taken it to another level this year. Looking fully healthy and rested after a longer off-season than the Hawks had anticipated on having, Hossa has an assist and has a team-high 12 shots on goal in the first two games, and has also been averaging 20:45 of ice time. His performance is a great sign for the Hawks, as they will need him to step up his production from what he has given them the past few years.

-Finally, from a team perspective, there is some good and some bad in the statistical department. The Hawks are in the top 10 in the league in both shots per game (34.5) and shots allowed (27.0), but their power play has been hideously abysmal, only converting 1-of-11 chances a season after being one of the top man-advantage units in the league last year. Obviously the sample size is small, and the Hawks have been getting good chances and moving the puck well, but it is something that they’ll need to improve upon moving forward.

The Hawks will have two more closed-skate practices before taking on the Jets on Thursday, and then will follow that up with a big test on Saturday when they battle the Boston Bruins in a clash between the last two Stanley Cup champions. Both games will start at 7:30pm, and Thursday’s tilt will be on CSN-Chicago, with Saturday’s game on WGN and NHL Network.

 

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