Blackhawks' Corey Crawford says he'll return after 10-month layoff

Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford says he plans on starting in Thursday's game against the Arizona Coyotes, which would mark his first game action in nearly 10 months.

Crawford, who has been sidelined since last season with lingering concussion symptoms, said the official decision will be made after he gets through Thursday's morning skate. Crawford said it's ultimately his decision.

"It feels good to be back to myself," Crawford said after practice Wednesday. "I'm feeling clear."

Coach Joel Quenneville was a bit more assertive on Crawford's status for Thursday, saying: "We expect him to play."

The 33-year-old Crawford last played in a game Dec. 23, 2017. He was placed on injured reserve with a concussion four days later.

Crawford played in 28 games last season, going 16-9-2 with a 2.27 goals-against average and .929 save percentage before the injury. With Crawford out, the Blackhawks missed the playoffs for the first time in 10 years.

"We felt like last year was an example of how important [Crawford] was," Quenneville said.

Before this season, Crawford had played in every Blackhawks season opener since 2011-12. Teammate Patrick Kane said it was great to have Crawford back and "I think the whole time the organization did a great job of not trying to rush him back."

The Blackhawks signed longtime Carolina Hurricanes goaltender Cam Ward to a one-year, $3 million contract in free agency as insurance.

Ward hasn't sparkled in his first five starts with the Blackhawks, posting a 4.07 GAA and .879 save percentage. The Blackhawks are 3-0-2 on the season, having gone to overtime in each of their first five games, an NHL record. On Thursday they will host a Coyotes team that has struggled on offense, scoring only three goals in their first five games. Arizona's 0.60 goals per game is the worst mark in the league.

Crawford will need to be activated from injured reserve, so a corresponding roster move will happen Thursday morning, Quenneville said.

The coach has previously said he doesn't want to carry three goaltenders, so eventually backup Anton Forsberg could be put on waivers.