COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville may have surprised a few people by deciding to start Marty Turco against the Columbus Blue Jackets in the Hawks' first game after the All-Star break.
And that includes myself.
Is it a gut call or does it have bigger meaning? Quenneville didn't reveal much after practice on Monday, only saying, “we need both guys.”
Coincidence or not, Corey Crawford was struggling before the break, and now Turco gets the nod over him after the break. If the Hawks had continued playing after losing to Minnesota last Tuesday, there is little doubt Turco would have played in the next game. But an All-Star break is a natural regrouping moment, especially for someone not playing in the All-Star game itself.
Consider it this way, do you think another team in the league is playing its back-up in its first game back? I'd venture to say no -- though it's possible the All-Star goalies might get a rest, but not those who already have been resting for four to five days.
Quenneville might be telling Turco he's getting another chance, or maybe it's just a strategic move knowing what's coming up on the schedule.
There is little doubt Turco will play in Dallas in Game 5 of the Hawks' six game road trip. There is also little doubt Crawford will play in Game 2 in Vancouver, where he won earlier this year; and Game 3 in Calgary, where Turco got bombed. If Crawford is rolling at that point, he'd probably play in Edmonton in Game 4, which brings the Hawks to the Stars game. If Turco doesn't play Tuesday night against Columbus, he might go from Jan. 16 to Feb. 11 without seeing action. That's probably not the best scenario for his homecoming. But then again, Turco shut out Edmonton this season on the road, so a "tune-up" game before the Stars contest might make sense.
Another strategic possibility for the Turco start might simply be the unknown nature of the first game after the All-Star break. Coaches have admitted there is little feel for this game, especially with just one practice before playing, and in the Hawks case, with four All-Stars coming off a laid back weekend of hockey and missing Hawks practice. He might be throwing the unknown Turco at another unknown -- that first game back. And Turco is a veteran of All-Star layoffs, so that might play a part as well.
No matter what, it signals the Hawks have not entirely put all their eggs in Crawford's basket. If they had, he would be starting Tuesday night.
Congratulations to Hawks defenseman Brian Campbell after getting engaged over the All-Star break in Aspen, Colorado.
“She didn't talk to me after that,” he said. “She was on the phone the entire time.”
The Hawks are making plans in case they get snowed in on Tuesday night in Columbus after their game. Usually the team flies right home, but the Hawks might stay over and depart sometime on Wednesday. They're due to fly to Vancouver for the rest of the road trip on Thursday afternoon.