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Crawford to return for Blackhawks in season finale

Goaltender will face Blue Jackets after missing 11 games with upper-body injury

by Craig Merz / Correspondent

BLACKHAWKS (47-26-8) AT BLUE JACKETS (33-40-8)

TV: 7 p.m. ET, WGN, FS-O, NHL.TV

COLUMBUS -- The game against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday means nothing in regard to the standings to the Chicago Blackhawks, who will finish third in the Central Division, but it has significance to goaltender Corey Crawford.

Crawford is expected to start when Chicago plays its regular-season finale at Nationwide Arena. Crawford (35-18-4, 2.32) missed 11 games after sustaining an upper-body injury on March 14.

"It's very important to get a game in here before the playoffs," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "You get three or four more practices before he plays a playoff game. It helps getting at least a start here and getting back on the on the ice as well. This is the next step."

Scott Darling has started the past 11 games for the Blackhawks, who will open the Stanley Cup Playoffs on the road against either the Dallas Stars or St. Louis Blues.

Captain Jonathan Toews and defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson likely will not play Saturday, Quenneville said. Chicago also will be without injured forwards Artem Anisimov, Marian Hossa and Andrew Shaw, and suspended defenseman Duncan Keith.

The revised lineup doesn't change a thing for the defending Stanley Cup champions.

"We'd like to win the game," Quenneville said. "That's what we're playing for."

Hjalmarsson said the Blackhawks are motivated to play well for Crawford.

"You want to help him out and build his confidence back to the level he was playing before he was hurt, which was really high," Hjalmarsson said. "He's a gamer. One game for him and he's ready to go. He's one of those goalies that likes it when it's more competitive, and playoff time in the past, he's been of our best players."

The Blue Jackets did not practice Saturday, but coach John Tortorella said after a 4-1 win at the Buffalo Sabres on Friday that goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky will start the season finale.

Forwards Jared Boll and Rene Bourque will play after being scratched against the Sabres.

Boll, the longest tenured Blue Jackets player, having made his debut in October 2007, could be playing his last game for Columbus despite having one more season on his contract. Boll has been a frequent scratch this season.

"Obviously I expect to be back," he said last week. "I've been here my whole career. I have a contract for next year. We'll see what happens. All my focus is on this organization, winning games and being successful. That's what I want to do and this is where I want to be. That's my plan moving forward."

Here are the projected lineups:


Andrew Ladd - Teuvo Teravainen - Richard Panik

Artemi Panarin - Dennis Rasmussen - Patrick Kane

Bryan Bickell - Andrew Desjardins - Dale Weise

Brandon Mashinter - Marcus Kruger - Tomas Fleischmann

Trevor Van Riemsdyk - Christian Ehrhoff

Viktor Svedberg - Brent Seabrook

Erik Gustafsson - Michal Rozsival

Corey Crawford

Scott Darling

Injured: Marian Hossa (lower body), Artem Anisimov (upper body), Andrew Shaw (upper body)

Suspended: Duncan Keith

Scratched: Niklas Hjalmarsson, Michael Leighton, Jonathan Toews


Brandon Dubinsky - Boone Jenner - Cam Atkinson

Brandon Saad - Alexander Wennberg - Nick Foligno

Scott Hartnell - William Karlsson - Rene Bourque

Matt Calvert - Gregory Campbell - Jared Boll

Ryan Murray - Seth Jones

Dean Kukan - David Savard

Justin Falk - Dalton Prout

Sergei Bobrovsky

Joonas Korpisalo

Scratched: None

Injuries: Jack Johnson    (shoulder), Curtis McElhinney (knee), David Clarkson (back), Fedor Tyutin (lower body), Cody Goloubef (oblique)

Status report: Rasmussen will play for the first time in five games and Ehrhoff goes in for Hjalmarsson. … The Blue Jackets assigned forwards Oliver Bjorkstrand and Josh Anderson to Lake Erie of the American Hockey League on Saturday. Korpisalo and Kukan are expected to follow Sunday.

Who's hot: Kane has five goals and four assists in four games. … Saad, a former Blackhawk, scored his 30th goal of the season on Friday to join Jenner, marking the first time the Blue Jackets have had two 30-goal scorers in a season. Dubinsky has two goals and an assist in two games.

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