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Crawford to start for Blackhawks against Coyotes

Goalie hasn't played since Dec. 23 because of concussion

by Tracey Myers @TraMyers_NHL / Staff Writer

CHICAGO -- Corey Crawford will make his first NHL start in almost 10 months when the Chicago Blackhawks host the Arizona Coyotes at United Center on Thursday (8:30 p.m. ET; NBCSCH, FS-A, NHL.TV).

The 33-year-old goalie sustained a concussion last season and has not played since allowing four goals on seven shots in a 4-1 loss at the New Jersey Devils on Dec. 23. Crawford (16-9-2, 2.27 goals-against average, .929 save percentage) missed the final 47 games of the season.

"I'm sure he's looking forward to it and we're all excited about it as well," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said Thursday. "It'll be a fun situation for the guys, seeing him back in the net as well. So we're looking for everyone to be excited about tonight's game.

"He missed five games to start the year, so we're fortunate that [Crawford's return] is this early. We have a big stretch of games in front of us right now. We'll see how he's handling it in selecting his starts. But definitely, we're all excited about this situation."

Without Crawford, the Blackhawks (3-0-2) allowed 21 goals in five games.

"I don't think we change anything on our end," forward Patrick Kane said. "We want to protect [Crawford], knowing it's his first game in a long time, but we're all happy to see him back on the ice. A lot of smiles. I'm sure it'll be exciting for him to get back in the net and it'll be exciting to see the crowd's reaction, too, to hear that ovation when they announce his name. That should get us pretty pumped up."

Crawford had been practicing with the Blackhawks since Sept. 29.

"Practices have been great," Crawford said Wednesday. "I've been getting the timing a little bit more, getting up to speed and reading shots and all of that. We're still going to wait until tomorrow morning [to decide], but right now I'm feeling good."

Video: Blackhawks' Corey Crawford returns from injury

Cam Ward, who has started all five games for Chicago (4.06 GAA, .879 save percentage), will be the backup.

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