Blackhawks' Corey Crawford returning after 10-month layoff

Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford is starting in Thursday night's game against the Arizona Coyotes, coach Joel Quenneville said after the morning skate, marking the netminder's first game action in nearly 10 months.

Crawford has been sidelined since last season with lingering concussion symptoms. He said Wednesday that he was planning to play, but how he felt after the morning skate was the final hurdle.

"It's exciting," Quenneville said. "I'm sure he's looking forward to it and we all are excited about him in there as well. It'll be a fun situation for the guys seeing him back in net as well, so we're looking for everybody to be excited about tonight's game."

Crawford, 33, 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, adding, "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.

Beginning with the matchup with the Coyotes, the Blackhawks have three games in the next four nights and seven in the next 11 days.

"We'll see how that goes. I know that we have three right now on our roster," Quenneville said about the goaltending situation. "With three in four nights, we'll see how that plays out."

To make room for Crawford on the roster, the Blackhawks sent forward Luke Johnson to the Rockford IceHogs of the AHL.

Also, forward Brandon Saad was in the lineup for Thursday. He is off to a slow start this season, was demoted to the fourth line in the last game and even wore a white jersey in practice this week -- which usually indicates a player who will be scratched in the next game.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.