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Corey Crawford To Make Return To Net For Blackhawks; 'He's Starting Tonight'

CHICAGO (CBS) -- It's official. Nearly 10 months after his last start, Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford will be back in the net at the United Center on Thursday against the Coyotes.

The Blackhawks activated Crawford from injured reserve on Thursday. They also reassigned forward Luke Johnson to the Rockford IceHogs to make room for Crawford on the active roster.

Crawford hasn't played since last December, having spent the past 10 months recovering from a concussion. All signs this week had pointed to his return to the ice on Thursday, but the team didn't make it official until Thursday.

After practice on Wednesday, Crawford said he and the team wanted to wait and see how he felt Thursday morning before making the final call.

"Practices have been great. Been getting timing a little bit more, and getting up to speed, and reading shots and all that stuff. So it'll be nice to finally get in one," Crawford said. "I'm sure it will be a little anxious getting into it, some nerves, but we'll see. We'll wait until the morning, but I'm definitely excited, I'll tell you that."

The Blackhawks have started well this season, going 3-0-2 in their first five games, but the team knows they'll need him healthy and playing again if they want to return to Stanley Cup contention.

Crawford's injury doomed the Blackhawks last season. The team started 17-13-5 with him as their starting goalie, and Crawford personally was 16-9-2 with a career best .929 save percentage before his injury. But the Blackhawks went 16-26-5 after his last game, missing the playoffs for the first time in a decade.

His team knows how big of a difference he can make on the ice when he's healthy and playing at his best.

"We felt last year was a good example of how important he was, and how well he was playing for us as well," Quenneville said. "We've been spoiled here for sure."

While game action will be a bigger challenge for Crawford than facing shots in practice, his teammates sounded confident Crawford will be a difference-maker again.

"He's still pretty hard to score on. So, yeah, he looks good. He's been tracking pucks well. I think he looks pretty good," right winger Alex DeBrincat said.

Blackhawks star Patrick Kane said the team is excited to have Crawford back, and he said it's good Crawford won't be expected to be a team savior, given the team is in second place in their division with Cam Ward in goal over the first five games.

"I think it's probably a good situation all around. I think Cam's done a great job of playing in the net so far, and obviously I think Crow looks really good in practice right now. So I'm sure he's itching to get back, too," Kane said. "You know, we've had a good start here. It's something we want to keep going, and I'm sure him coming back on home ice in front of our crowd will be a fun moment for him and for our team as well."

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