G Corey Crawford skates before Chicago’s first practice
CHICAGO (AP) — Corey Crawford is skating again. The Stanley Cup-winning goaltender hasn’t been cleared for practice just yet, but he thinks he is close.
Now about those defensemen for the Chicago Blackhawks.
While Crawford delivered a positive update Friday on his recovery from a concussion that sidelined him for most of last season, defensemen Connor Murphy, Brent Seabrook and Gustav Forsling missed the start of training camp due to injuries.
Forsling had right wrist surgery in July, but the back injury for Murphy and abdominal issue for Seabrook were new developments. Murphy will be sidelined for about eight weeks, taking him out of the mix for the start of the season. The 33-year-old Seabrook is expected to miss about one week, according to team physician Michael Terry.
“Things changed here quickly there the last day or so in that area,” coach Joel Quenneville said.
The Blackhawks missed the playoffs last season for the first time since 2008, and the mix of green prospects and aging veterans among the defensemen was one of the biggest issues. The injuries could open the door for 19-year-old Henri Jokiharju to make the team out of camp.
Jokiharju was selected by Chicago in the first round of the 2017 draft. Brandon Davidson, who has eight goals and nine assists in 114 career NHL games, is in camp on a tryout deal, and Blake Hillman also could get a longer look.
“We’ve got a lot of candidates and I think that’s what’s exciting about the first day of camp and the first games next week,” general manager Stan Bowman said. “It’s going to be let’s see which guy earns that spot. There’s certainly opportunity there for players who play well.”
A healthy Crawford could provide a big lift. He worked with goaltending coach Jimmy Waite before Chicago’s first practice, skating off before the rest of the players jumped on the ice.
“I’ve gotten better and better over the last couple months and was able to skate a few times the last two weeks,” Crawford said. “I feel good on the ice as a goalie. But right now, I’m just, I’m not ready to go yet.”
Crawford played in 28 games last season, going 16-9-2 with a 2.27 goals-against average and .929 save percentage. The two-time All-Star was placed on injured reserve on Dec. 27.
The 33-year-old Crawford faced some shots during a morning skate in Arizona on Feb. 12, but was never able to come back.
“Things never really got better,” Crawford said. “We thought maybe to try it when I went to Arizona, and then we were at a point, too, where we were close in the standings and then it just got to where it didn’t seem like it was worth it when we started to slide. It was better off think about long-term than try to rush back.”
Crawford’s first public acknowledgement of his concussion and the specificity of the information on Murphy and Seabrook are part of an organizational shift in strategy when it comes to injuries. Rather than the traditional hockey parlance of generic upper-body and lower-body ailments, the Blackhawks are planning to be more forthcoming when it comes to players’ health.
“We’re trying to, I guess, sort of change with the times, maybe,” Bowman said. “It’s always that balance between respecting the players — at the end of the day, this is their injuries, they’re not our injuries. But we understand the world that we live in today. People want to know and they care about our team and they care about the players individually. They want to know.”
Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap
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