After rough first half, Anton Forsberg turning it around in net for the Blackhawks

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VANCOUVER – With his status still very much in limbo, it’s looking like a charge towards the playoffs for the Blackhawks may have to come without Corey Crawford.

Could he return? Sure.

Joel Quenneville has indicated a few times that the belief is that he’ll be back, but improvement in his condition has been slow enough that the Blackhawks likely going to rely on their backups for a while. If you looked at that possibility in the first half of the year, you might have thought the team was heading for impending doom.

That’s because the main backup, Anton Forsberg, had a trying start to his season, winning just one of his starts from October through December. His save percentage was hovering around 90 percent and when Crawford hit IR late in 2017, some wondered if he along with rookie Jeff Glass would be up to the challenge.

Lately for Forsberg, that appears to be the case. Especially in one of the bigger Blackhawks wins of the season against a divisional rival on Tuesday.

His 42 saves were needed in a big way against the Predators, especially when he was getting peppered with shots in the third period. But Forsberg held strong, holding Nashville scoreless from the final 37 minutes of the game in a 2-1 victory. It kept the Blackhawks four points behind of Minnesota in a crowded race for the last Wild Card spot in the Western Conference.

“Today we worked as a team, we did a really good job of keeping most of the shots outside,” said Forsberg, spreading the credit for arguably his best performance of the 2017-2018 season to date. “It was a lot of shots but there weren’t that many hard scoring chances so that way I feel like it was a team effort.”

Others in the locker room disagreed, including head coach Joel Quenneville. He praised Forsberg’s effort on Tuesday night and then rewarded him by putting him back in the goal for the Blackhawks Thursday against Vancouver at 9 PM on WGN.

“Right now ‘Fors’ is coming off two really good games, you could call that one a ‘Goalie Win’ last game in a lot of ways,” said Quenneville of Forsberg on Thursday in Vancouver.

His teammates were also singing his praises after the Predators win as the goalie completed a much better month of January compared to the first three months of the season. Forsberg is 4-2 with a 93.7 save percentage, up three points from his season average, and he’s allowed just two goals in the Blackhawks’ last two victories.

“He gave us a chance to keep playing our game,” said defenseman Brent Seabrook of Forsberg Tuesday. “In that third period he was amazing, he was making some big stops.”

They’ll have to continue if the Blackhawks want to make the playoffs, especially if Crawford’s absence extends further into the final 32 games of the year. It’s nice for Forsberg to have the momentum for the moment, but plenty is left to do.

“I felt like I had a good last game too, and I felt even better today. I’ve just to continue to keep playing like this,” said Forsberg, who is going to get his chance the next few weeks.

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