The looming question surrounding Blackhawks training camp has been 'Where is Corey Crawford?'.
On Saturday, the veteran netminder took the ice for the first time with his team and afterwards explained his absence:
"I tested positive for COVID(-19)," he said. "I've had to quarantine in my place here in Chicago for the last few weeks."
Crawford said he and his wife were taking all the necessary precautions before coming down with the virus, largely staying at home with their two young kids. When he tested positive, it caught him off guard.
"You know a baby at home and our two year old, we didn't spend that much time out," he said. "It was actually a really big surprise that I tested positive."
He said it wasn't an easy illness to overcome, but luckily the worst he experienced were flu-like symptoms early on.
"The first few days that I started feeling symptoms, that was the hardest," Crawford explained. "The last couple weeks, maybe a little more, was a little bit easier but I still couldn't really do much in case there was something wrong with my lungs or my heart, so we had to get that checked out first before I really started pushing in the gym or come on the ice. All of that has been done, the doctors did a good job. We were safe enough about it where we didn't put anyone else at risk and I'm just excited to be back on the ice and seeing pucks again."
Now, Crawford is expected to travel with the team to Edmonton on Sunday, where the team is scheduled to practice four times and play an exhibition game against St. Louis before the Qualifying Round opener against the Oilers in exactly one week, on Aug. 1.
For the veteran, it will be about maximizing the little time left to get as game-ready as possible in a few days time.
"Obviously there's not much time but I've never really been someone that skates a ton in the summer anyway," he said. "I feel like it takes a few practices just to get your legs under you. It doesn't really matter what you do in the gym, but today felt decent for the first time on the ice and I'm just going to try and build off of that."
"It's great to get him on the ice his first day back. The biggest thing is just feeling the puck and getting comfortable and getting his game legs back," head coach Jeremy Colliton added. "We don't have a lot of time, we do 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, so we'll keep going on that process."
For his longtime teammates, there's no doubt that if anyone can do it, it's Crawford.
"Obviously Corey's an all-world goaltender, you saw what he was doing for us (this) year, especially towards the end of the year," Duncan Keith said when asked of the possibility on Tuesday. "Without a training camp and not being here, if there's one guy that could step in it would be him ... but we'll wait and see."
"Give 'Crow' credit, he's always risen to the occasion when he's gotten in tight spots or when he's been hurt, he comes back and plays great," Jonathan Toews added Wednesday. "I laugh because the amount of preparation that a guy like me needs to go play at my best as opposed to a guy like 'Crow' who can just hop in there, that's almost the expectation for him. And at the same time it's not really fair ... It's not fair to put that level of pressure on him."
Crawford is just the latest Blackhawk to return to action late in the week, joining Toews, Calvin de Haan and Connor Murphy, who unlike the netminder all started camp last Monday but missed varying stints of time. With the team going wheel's up on Sunday, the full roster is starting to come together for Colliton.
"We need everyone to have success and give ourselves the best chance," the coach said. "Certainly encouraging to get those guys back on the ice. In a perfect world we would've had them for the whole time and been able to prepare them, just getting used to the workload. But all teams are going to deal with some kind of adversity as far as guys missing and we've just got to get through it. The players, I know, they're doing everything they can to prepare and we'll be ready on August 1."