Hawks top Panthers 6-2 as Crawford leaves game with an injury

Hawks top Panthers 6-2 as Crawford leaves game with an injury

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

The Chicago Blackhawks ended their three game losing streak by defeating the Florida Panthers 6-2 on Sunday. The good news is the Chicago special teams were both really solid and that hasn't been the case very often this season. The Hawks connected on three of four power plays and were perfect in the penalty killing department. The Panthers failed on all five power play attempts.

In the interest of giving a balanced report Florida is a not a good club overall, and they also have poor special teams. The Panthers penalty killing unit ranks one above the Blackhawks at 28th. Their power play is more dismal as it sits in 29th place in the NHL. So it was a good night for the Hawks special teams but the optimism that all is well in the penalty killing department should be tempered.

There is a dark cloud hanging over this victory for Hawk fans as Corey Crawford appeared to suffer a significant injury. There is no official report as to what type of injury Crawford suffered near the 13:45 mark of the opening period. When a goalie goes down the way Crawford did and can't get up, a groin pull could have happened. It could also be Crawford pulled an abdominal muscle or hurt his leg, it is all a guess now. What is most important is that Joel Quenneville mentioned after the game Crawford would undergo further evaluation on Monday. So it appears likely Crawford will be out for awhile and in the next day or so an update will be given with more details.

Antti Raanta was forced into action and responded by stopping 29 of 31 shots. Raanta appears a bit anxious at times and overplays shots. He also doesn't handle the puck very well. After the game Raanta admitted to needing work on his stick handling but he continues to give the Hawks a chance to win. Raanta will have to learn on the fly as the schedule continues at a quick pace. Starting with Tuesday night's contest in Dallas the Hawks will play 10 more games in December.

There hasn't been an ETA given for a return to action for Nikolai Khabibulin. The red flag involving the summer signing of Khabibulin was his history of frequent injuries which are not usually quick fixes. GM Stan Bowman was aware of the risk and now the injury to Crawford is especially bad timing if Khabibulin can't return. Raanta could be tested in a big way as the pressure will be great.

No matter how well Raanta performs he will need a break because the Hawks will play three more sets of back to back games this month. The worst thing that can happen to Raanta and the Blackhawks is not that he gets tired. What would be far more dangerous is if he goes into a slump and starts fighting the puck.

Sometimes a bad slump will cause a young goalkeeper to lose his confidence. Many times when a young player has his confidence shaken it takes awhile to get his head right, some struggle for a long time. Without Khabibulin available Quenneville may continue on with Raanta even if his play slips.

If Crawford's injury is in the more serious category Bowman may have no choice but to acquire some help if Khabibulin isn't going to be back soon. Bowman could be looking for a goaltender with some NHL experience who is a better option than what is left in Rockford to backup Raanta.

Maybe Bowman will look to acquire an experienced backup as a safety net like 33-year-old Joey MacDonald who is toiling with Calgary's AHL affiliate. It appears Carolina may have a younger goalie to spare, possibly 27-year-old Justin Peters who has played in 61 NHL games. Bowman's course will be determined after doctors further examine Crawford and once a feasible return date for Khabibulin is determined.

The Blackhawks success on the power play could also be tied to the return to action of Andrew Shaw. Shaw was on the ice for two of three power play goals The young forward is a problem for opposing goaltenders as he notched his ninth goal on a tip in. Patrick Sharp added his 12th marker of the season while Marian Hossa scored his 13th goal. Brent Seabrook and Michal Handzus also tallied along with Brandon Saad.

Patrick Kane had another good night but didn't dent the twine. Kane was credited with three assists and now has a total of 21 helpers to go along with 16 goals.

The health status of Crawford remains to be seen but the season continues as the Blackhawks will skate into Dallas Tuesday night. The Stars have been a handful and it appears almost certain Raanta will face them for the first time. The Hawks will then return home to battle the Flyers on Wednesday.

I will be back on Wednesday morning and you can follow me on Twitter @AlCimaglia.

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