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Crawford could play in Blackhawks' season finale

Joel Quenneville: goalie 'absolutely' will start Game 1 of playoffs

by Brian Hedger / Correspondent

CHICAGO -- Chicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford is making progress in his recovery from an upper-body injury, and is uncertain whether he'll start Game 1 of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs. His coach, however, is confident that he will.

"Absolutely," Joel Quenneville said when asked if he thinks Crawford will start Game 1 of the playoffs.

"[He's shown] real good progress this week. We'll keep him going here and look to get him [back] in on the weekend."

After completing his first morning skate since the injury was revealed March 17, and third on-ice workout in the past four days, Crawford said he might play in the Blackhawks' regular-season finale at the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday.

"Yeah, there's a chance," Crawford said, after taking live shots from teammates for the first time since getting back on the ice. "Today was really good. If I'm there or if I feel like I'm at that pace, that game timing and pace, why not?"

Crawford was not as certain as Quenneville about being ready in time for the playoffs.

"'I'd love to, but then again there's no rush," Crawford said. "It's literally day-by-day. The training staff has done a good job. They always make sure our guys are ready when we get on the ice. It's no different here. But today was a really good day."

After working with Blackhawks goaltending coach Jimmy Waite last weekend, Crawford did more individual work with Waite on Monday. He then participated in Chicago's morning skate Tuesday before a game against the Arizona Coyotes at United Center (8:30 p.m. ET; FS-A, CSN-CH, NHL.TV).

"I feel pretty good right now," Crawford said. "This has been good the last few days. The workouts have been really good. The ice has been really good. Practice felt good today. That was a long one, too, so [I'm] a little tired from that. I'm itching to get back in there."

Video: Call of the Game: Crawford stops Lewis

Crawford last played in the Blackhawks' 5-0 loss to the Los Angeles Kings at United Center on March 14. He allowed all five goals on 25 shots and backed up Scott Darling in Chicago's 3-2 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on March 16.

The injury was announced the next day and the Blackhawks said Crawford was day-to-day. It sounded like a minor injury at the time, but Crawford has missed almost a month.

"It's frustrating, but it is what it is," said Crawford, who declined to discuss the nature of the injury or when it occurred. "Right now, I'm just. ... I can feel it getting closer and I'm just excited about getting back."

Crawford was having the best regular season of his career prior to the injury. He is 35-18-4 with a 2.32 goals-against average and .926 save percentage and leads the League with seven shutouts. He set new career-highs in wins and starts (57), and he's two games short of tying his NHL career high in appearances.

Crawford will have one more if he's able to start in Columbus to close out the regular season.

"That would always be nice," Crawford said. "I think the little details kind of go away a little bit the longer you miss, but who knows? Practices have been pretty hard, pretty intense, technical stuff with [Waite] I've been working on. It feels good. Today felt good with the shots. I'll just go day-by-day, but right now, after today, I felt good out there seeing stuff."

Quenneville and Crawford's teammates like what they've seen, especially Monday.

"It shows progress," Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said. "I think sometimes it can get frustrating if you feel you're seeing some recovery and then all of the sudden you digress on other days. But it's good to have [him] back out there with the boys and know that he's on the right path."

The next step is returning for a game, whenever that might be.

"I think with him getting on the ice, seeing pucks, getting the pace in front of him, [there's] nothing better than a game situation," Quenneville said. "We're looking to get him that chance and we'll go from there."

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