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FEATURE: Crawford set to return to action in California

Corey Crawford will make his first start since Dec. 16 when the Blackhawks take a three-game road trip through California this week

by Chris Wescott /

When the Blackhawks head out west for a California road trip to Anaheim, Los Angeles, and San Jose, they're taking Corey Crawford with them. The Blackhawks Stanley Cup-winning goaltender is set to make his first appearance in net since suffering a concussion against the Sharks on Dec. 16.

"It's been another long wait," said Crawford. "It's always tough watching from the sidelines. It's nice to get back in there. Hopefully, I feel good right away and it will be fun to just play hockey again."

Video: Corey Crawford on his return

Head Coach Jeremy Colliton wasn't showing his hand when it comes to which game - or games - Crawford will start on the road, but he did confirm the goalie is good to go.

"He'll play on the trip," said Colliton. "We've got the back-to-back [on Saturday and Sunday] and we have two goalies, so he'll play."

The Blackhawks re-assigned rookie goaltender Collin Delia to the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League on Monday, while activating Crawford from injured reserve. There are no limitations or concerns with the netminder, per the coach.

"He's 100 percent," said Colliton. "He wouldn't have been cleared otherwise. He's ready to go. He's looked good in practice for a while. He's ready."

Colliton quipped that the expectation for Crawford in his return is "he'll stop a lot of pucks."

"Stop more pucks than the other guy across the rink. That's the biggest thing," the coach said. "He does play the puck very well, that's a factor. He's very composed back there."

While adding the proven, veteran presence is expected to provide an on-ice boost, the mental aspect of Crawford's return could be felt throughout the locker room as well.

"I think the other thing that he brings is a calmness," said Colliton.

Video: Jeremy Colliton on Crawford

With Chicago trying to stay in the thick of the Western Conference Wild Card race, that's a big benefit.

"Nothing is going to bother him and that filters down to the rest of the team," Colliton added. "We've been talking a lot about don't get too high, don't get too low, just keep playing, never give up, and he's got that."

"Hopefully, it brings some energy," Crawford said of his return. "We've been playing so well, I just want to jump in and be a part of that and contribute as much as I can. Hopefully, I get the good feelings back right away and just roll with it. That'd be nice."

The prospect of joining the aforementioned playoff race is exciting to Crawford.

"If we're still in it, we'll always have a chance," he said. "We can score goals and we're definitely tough to handle offensively. We just have to keep playing hard, one game at a time."

Now Chicago has their number one back in the fold and it comes at a crucial point in the season.

"I'm sure the guys will get a little emotional boost," said Colliton. "He, most importantly, is a pretty good goaltender. He's proven, tested and experienced and that's going to help. I think there is a belief in our room that we have what it takes, but he'll help."

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