With training camps set to open next week, the Chicago Blackhawks aren’t certain if their starting goaltender will be ready to hit the ice.
“I hope he is,” Hawks president John McDonough told local reporters on Thursday. “Well, I’m confident that he will be.”
Crawford’s last action came on Dec. 23, a loss to the New Jersey Devils in which he was pulled after allowing three goals on seven shots in 13:22 of action.
The Hawks netminder has been sidelined with an “upper-body injury” and vertigo-like symptoms that were believed to be concussion-related.
When Crawford spoke this summer, he said he wasn’t yet ready to return to the ice, but hoped to be ready by September.
“I’m feeling pretty good right now,” Crawford told reporters in July. “I’m not 100 per cent yet but we’ve come a long way in the last couple months and I worked really hard to do whatever I can to get better. … We still have a lot of time before training camp so we’re very excited about it.”
Over the past three seasons, Crawford’s .923 save percentage ranks second among all goalies with at least 120 starts. Only Anaheim’s John Gibson, with a .924 mark, ranks better.
In 28 games last season, Crawford remained an elite netminder. He posted a 16-9-2 record with a .929 save percentage and 2.27 GAA. In his absence, the rest of Chicago’s goalies combined for a 17-30-8 record as the team missed the playoffs.
If Crawford is unable to start the season, the Blackhawks would turn to 34-year-old Cam Ward, who they signed to a one-year, $3 million deal off the free agent market. Ward had spent his entire career to this point with the Carolina Hurricanes, but has posted a sub-.910 save percentage in each of the past three seasons.