Crawford could return later in week

CHICAGO -- Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford could return to game action for the first time in nearly a month when the team plays back-to-back road games on Thursday and Friday, Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said on Monday.

Crawford has been out with a lower-body injury since Dec. 8. He was expected to miss 2-3 weeks due to the injury.

He practiced with the team for the first time during its morning skate on Monday.

“I thought he looked good, felt good,” Quenneville said on Monday. “Hopefully we’ll get in that practice before we go on that trip. If all goes well, we’ll expect him to play on that trip.”

The Blackhawks play the New York Islanders on Thursday and the New Jersey Devils on Friday.

Crawford spoke to the media Monday for the first time since injury and reported he was good to go.

“I feel great,” Crawford said. “After the Christmas break, everything has gone well. I haven’t felt the injury at all on the ice. I’m ready to go.

“[I never had an injury] as bad as that. It felt pretty long when I was out. I was getting bored there for a bit. It’s nice to be back on the ice with the guys.”

Crawford is 17-6-3 with a 2.47 goals-against average and .907 save percentage this season.

Blackhawks rookie goaltender Antti Raanta will start his 10th consecutive game in Crawford’s place against the Los Angeles Kings on Monday. Raanta is 9-1-3 with a 2.38 goals-against average and .906 save percentage this season.

Crawford and Quenneville spoke highly of Raanta’s performance over the last month.

“He’s done a tremendous job for us,” Quenneville said. “I know that [he had] no experience and coming in and playing basically every game and consistently giving us a chance to win. Doing what he has to do and in control, looks confident, rebound control in order and challenges. As a rookie taking advantage of that opportunity, you never know how it’s going to play out. He certainly did a real good job for us.”