Blackhawks-Maple Leafs Preview
The Chicago Blackhawks have been plodding along since Corey Crawford was injured two weeks ago.
It appears their No. 1 goaltender is ready to return.
Crawford may play Saturday night when the Blackhawks visit a Toronto Maple Leafs team seeking a third straight win.
The Blackhawks (6-3-1) went 3-3-0 with Crawford out due to an upper-body injury, with Antti Raanta and Scott Darling combining to give up eight goals in the first five games. Darling allowed four on Thursday in Ottawa, including the tying score with 2:08 to go in regulation, but Chicago came away with a 5-4 shootout victory.
Patrick Sharp had the winning goal in the extra session and Jonathan Toews scored twice. Marian Hossa put the Blackhawks ahead for a few minutes in the third period with his 1,000th career point.
Chicago had totaled six goals while losing three of its previous four games.
"A lot of goals around the net, a lot of ugly goals. That’s what we were talking about all week," Sharp said. "Hopefully, there’s more of that to come."
Following three consecutive starts, Darling was sent back to the minors Friday. Crawford, who was on the bench in Ottawa, is expected to take his place Saturday and will carry a 3-0-1 record and a 1.66 goals-against average into his fifth game.
Out since stopping 19 shots in a 2-1 overtime win over Nashville on Oct. 18, Crawford had 19 saves a 3-1 home win over Toronto last October to improve to 2-0-0 in three starts in the series.
Toronto (5-4-1) faced Raanta and Kent Simpson on Dec. 14 when it snapped an eight-game skid in the series and a four-game home losing streak to the Blackhawks with a 7-3 victory.
Joffrey Lupul had two goals and two assists in that game, but is out indefinitely after breaking a bone in his right hand at practice Thursday.
The Maple Leafs shook off his absence for a 4-1 win over Columbus on Friday, and Phil Kessel and Daniel Winnik each provided one goal and two assists.
"It was kind of a surprise to everyone that it was actually broken," coach Randy Carlyle said. "But then the game goes on. That’s what you have to do. Tonight we found a way to get the job done. It wasn’t pretty, but it was effective."
Kessel had a goal and an assist in a 4-0 win over Buffalo on Tuesday, Toronto’s second victory in six home games this season. The Leafs star forward has a team-best 13 points in the last eight games (six goals, seven assists).
Kessel has one goal and one assist in his last four matchups with Chicago after scoring five goals in his first four. Lupul had four goals and five assists in his past five meetings, making his absence potentially a key one.
Playing on back-to-back nights, the Leafs could put James Reimer in net after starting Jonathan Bernier for five straight games. Reimer lost his only start versus the Blackhawks on March 5, 2011, giving up five goals on 19 shots.
Bernier is 1-2-0 with a 3.04 GAA in three career starts against Chicago, including two last season.
Patrick Kane scored two goals on him in the Dec. 14 game. Kane has five goals and four assists in seven career matchups, but has two assists in his last five overall games.