Despite injury or record, Corey Crawford is set on a return to the Blackhawks this season

DALLAS, TX - DECEMBER 21: Corey Crawford #50 of the Chicago Blackhawks tends goal against the Dallas Stars at the American Airlines Center on December 21, 2017 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Glenn James/NHLI via Getty Images)

GLENDALE, Ariz.  – The simple pleasures in life for him, at the moment, include taking the ice for morning skate on a random Monday in Arizona.

When you’ve been out of the lineup for nearly two months, as Corey Crawford has, that’s something exciting. Even if he was just sitting in the goal and taking a few shots here and there.

“It felt pretty good to be around the guys,” said Crawford, who’s spoke to the media for the first time since going on Injured Reserve on Monday before the Blackhawks’ 6-1 loss the Coyotes. “It’s been a little while. So that was nice to be around that atmosphere.”

This was the first trip the Blackhawks’ top goalie has made since he left the team’s December 23rd game against the Devils after surrendering three goals in the first period. Since then it’s been recovering from a bit of a mystery ailment that kept him off the ice the rest of that month and January before finally returning to light practice in February.

“Not bad, I would say,” said Crawford when asked how he feels physically. “It takes sometime, I guess, to see shots and stuff. It’s a process right now to go through everything, to get to a point where I can get into a game. It’s still looking good. Our trainers have been great for me. Stan (Bowman), the organization, all the guys.

“I want to get back playing but it’s a process to get through.”

When that might come to an end  remains a mystery. Monday was out and so was Tuesday’s game against the Golden Knights in Las Vegas. An outside shot at a return late in the week was mentioned as an outside possibility but nothing is set in stone at all.

One thing that is for sure, however, is that Crawford wants back in the lineup no matter what the circumstances. The loss to the Coyotes – the NHL’s worst team – on Monday sent the Blackhawks to their sixth-straight defeat and leaves them ten points out of the final Wild Card spot in the Western conference.

With 26 games left, a major run would be needed to get the team back in the playoffs for a tenth-straight season. Plagued by his ailment the last two months, there is a notion to let Crawford heal up completely for the 2018-2019 season rather than risk further injury.

So far the goalie is having none of it.

“First of all, our team has always had a chance, every game, every season. You never count this team out – and we go game-by-game. I don’t think anyones thinking that,” said Crawford. “We’ve gone on streaks before and no one has doubt we can go on another streak and fire off a bunch of wins and put ourselves in a position.

“That’s no question – no question about that at all. As far as I’m concerned, right now, we’re just looking at it day-to-day, trying to get better and put myself in a position to play – and that’s all.”

Before going on IR Crawford was doing that quite well, posting a 9-2-2 record in his last 13 games. For the season, the goalie was having Vezina Award-type numbers as he registered a 16-9-2 record with a 2.27 goals against average. Maybe that’s why he’s antsy to get back on the ice, no matter what the team’s record at the moment.

“I don’t think it matters the situation, whether we’re in first place or whatever it is,” said Crawford. “You always want to be out there playing. Like I said, that’s what we do. The situation isn’t any different now. I wanna play hockey and it’s just a matter of getting to that point.”

So far Corey’s making it a point to get there before time runs out on the 2017-2018 season.