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Blackhawks' Crawford expected back vs. Islanders

by John Kreiser

BLACKHAWKS (28-7-7) at ISLANDERS (13-21-7)


Last 10: Chicago 7-1-2; New York 5-3-2

Season series: It's the final game between the Chicago Blackhawks and New York Islanders this season. Chicago edged the Islanders 3-2 at United Center on Oct. 11 and has won the past four games between the teams.

Big story: Rookie Antti Raanta did a great job holding the fort for 10 games after starting goaltender Corey Crawford went down with a lower-body injury, but Crawford will be back in goal for Chicago when the Blackhawks start a two-game trip with their first visit to Nassau Coliseum since Dec. 8, 2011.

Team Scope:

Blackhawks: Crawford, who has been sidelined since Dec. 8, is 17-6-3 with a 2.47 goals-against average and .907 save percentage this season. Coach Joel Quenneville is excited to have him back.

"He's ready to go," Quenneville told the media after practice Wednesday. "Looking forward to seeing him play. He's excited about it. He's going [Thursday]."

Just in case, the Blackhawks are taking three goaltenders, Crawford, Raanta and Jason LaBarbera, on the two-game trip, which also includes a game Friday at the New Jersey Devils.

"It's very short term," Quenneville said of carrying three goalies. "We'll come out of the trip and make a decision. Antti is going to back up [Thursday]. That's where we're at."

Islanders: No team has had more trouble holding onto leads than the Islanders, who've lost six times when leading by two goals and have struggled to hold leads in the third period. But they've also shown the ability to come back; New York returns to the Coliseum to start a three-game homestand after overcoming a three-goal deficit to beat the Minnesota Wild 5-4 and a two-goal deficit in a 5-3 victory against the Boston Bruins on New Year's Eve.

"We turned the page and did a better job in the second period," said captain John Tavares, who had two assists in the second period and two goals in the third. "We got our legs going and it was good to see the power play come through in a big way."

New York's power play, which had produced four goals since Thanksgiving, matched that total in the final two periods of the win in Boston.

Who's hot: Chicago left wing Brandon Saad has goals in back-to-back games. He scored the winner in a 1-0 victory against the Los Angeles Kings on Monday in which Raanta stopped 26 shots for his first NHL shutout. … Tavares climbed to fourth in the NHL scoring race (44 points) with his four-point night in Boston. He has three goals and two assists his past two games after sitting out Saturday with a lower-body injury.

Injury report: Crawford's return leaves backup goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin (lower body) as the only injured Chicago player. … Islanders defensemen Lubomir Visnovsky (concussion) and Radek Martinek (back) are on injured reserve.

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