Corey Crawford: 'I've come a long way,' start of camp still uncertain

CHICAGO -- Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford, who missed the last three-plus months of Chicago's season with an undisclosed injury, admitted he has been "a little bit" concerned about his long-term health.

Crawford, 33, was emotional when addressing reporters at the Blackhawks' fan convention Friday. He made his first public comments since February.

"I'm feeling pretty good right now," Crawford said. "I'm not 100 percent yet. But I've come a long way in the last couple months."

Minutes before Crawford spoke on Friday, coach Joel Quenneville said he expected Crawford to be the starting goalie next season.

Despite that optimism from Quenneville as well as GM Stan Bowman, Crawford would not commit to being ready when training camp begins.

"That's hard to say right now, but it's very possible," Crawford said. "We've come a long way in the last couple months. There's a really good chance that will happen."

The Blackhawks signed veteran Cam Ward to a one-year, $3 million contract as an insurance policy.

Crawford last played in a game on Dec. 23, 2017, before being placed on injured reserve with an undisclosed upper-body injury on Dec. 27.

He did not comment on the nature of his injury.

"We can't disclose that," Crawford said. "I ask you to just respect that. There's been a lot of rumors, and people tend to do that. Speculation -- that's normal."

Crawford was having a Vezina-caliber start, with a 16-9-2 record and a 2.27 goals-against average and .929 save percentage in 28 games. The Blackhawks went into a tailspin after that, missing the playoffs for the first time in 10 years.

"It can feel kind of lonely, at times, being out that long," Crawford said. "I got to go to the games, obviously, but it's still not the same. Not the same as stepping on the ice, hearing the crowd, just being there in the locker room, just wanting to be on the ice with them. All of that stuff. It's hard to be away from it, especially when you do something your whole life, you're used to doing something, and then you don't do it for a long period of time, it's tough."

Crawford joined the team in Arizona on Feb. 12 for a practice, then was shut down for the rest of the season.

"It's just nice to be back here and see everyone again," Crawford said.