The Blackhawks goalie was placed on injured reserve Friday, the third time in four years he has landed there around this time of year.
The team did not disclose the nature of the latest ailment, but Crawford made 31 saves while playing all through a 4-3 overtime loss against the Stars on Thursday night at the United Center.
His absence, which will last at least a week per league rules and three games in this case, leaves the Blackhawks with two inexperienced goalies in backup Anton Forsberg and Jean-Francois Berube, who was called up from Rockford to take Crawford’s place on the roster.
Forsberg, 25, has 16 appearances and 14 starts with a 2-10-2 record and a 3.90 goals-against average on his NHL resume. Berube has played in 21 games to his credit, and is 6-4-3 with a 3.11 goals-against.
“He has been great,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said of Crawford in mid-November. “That’s one thing about ‘Crow,’ he’s always moving forward, trying to get better off his last effort.”
The timing is both eerie and inconvenient for Crawford and the Blackhawks, who were fifth in a bunched up Central Division with 28 points after Thursday.
Crawford had an emergency appendectomy in early December last year, which put him on the shelf 10 games.
In early December 2014, Crawford injured his ankle during a concert at the House of Blues and missed eight games.
This season, Crawford has helped keep kept the team afloat. After Thursday’s games, Crawford was seventh in the league with a 2.29 goals-against average and fourth with a .930 save percentage.
“I think it’s fun when it’s good competition,” Crawford said in late November. “Then again, every team is pretty good. If you’re not on your game you’re going to get beat.”
He appeared to be slow to his feet after he made a save during the third period Thursday. He also barely reacted during the first period when Radek Faksa easily converted on a penalty shot.
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said Nov. 18 that Crawford “had his bell rung” against the Penguins. Crawford briefly left that game after a collision with Evgeni Malkin caused Crawford to fall backward onto the ice.
Crawford called his evaluation for a concussion that night “precautionary” and hadn’t shown any obvious signs of injury during the four games he has played since.
Crawford was named the NHL’s first star of the week in early November after he posted back-to-back shutouts.
“He has played amazing for us,” forward Patrick Kane said.
Now the Hawks will have to rely on Forsberg to do most of the heavy lifting in goal, with Berube backing him up. The Blackhawks face the Stars on Saturday in Dallas before returning home to face the Kings on Sunday as they try to make up ground in the division, which saw all seven teams over .500 and separated from top to bottom by just nine points.
Berube, 26, is 6-6-0 with a 2.54 goals-against average and .913 save percentage for the IceHogs this season. The Blackhawks signed him July 1 after he was 3-2-2 with a 3.42 GAA and .889 save percentage in 14 games with the Islanders last year.