The Chicago Blackhawks are close to getting their top goalie back.
Corey Crawford, who has missed nine straight games with a lower-body injury that's reportedly a groin issue, said he felt "great" after participating in the Blackhawks' morning skate Monday at United Center.
Crawford won't dress Monday night against the Los Angeles Kings (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN2), but is set to make his return during a pending two-game road trip to play back-to-back at the New York Islanders and New Jersey Devils on Thursday and Friday.
"I feel great," said Crawford, who skated in a team workout for the first time since leaving the lineup Dec. 8 at home against the Florida Panthers. "After the Christmas break everything's gone well. I haven't felt the injury at all on the ice, so I'm ready to go."
Crawford said the team didn't want to take any risks in bringing him back too soon, especially with rookie Antti Raanta playing solidly in his place.
"It felt pretty long when I was out," Crawford said. "I was getting pretty bored there for a bit. It's nice to be back on the ice with the guys. It was maybe a little bit longer than I wanted, but we wanted to be on the cautious side too, and not re-injure it and be out even longer."
The Blackhawks also have veteran backup Nikolai Khabibulin on long-term injured reserve with a lower-body injury, which means Raanta might stick around once Crawford returns. Veteran Jason LaBarbera is also on the roster, so one of them will get sent back to Rockford of the American Hockey League if the Blackhawks don't opt to carry three goalies.
"I think he earned the opportunity to be around and we'll see how it all plays out," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said of Raanta, who's gone 9-1-3 in his 14 outings. "When we get Corey back we'll be making that decision then, but certainly we like what we've seen."
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