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Hawks goalie Corey Crawford ready if Coyotes try to retaliate

Corey Crawford Oliver Ekman-Larsson

Corey Crawford, Oliver Ekman-Larsson

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Updated: May 18, 2012 9:57AM

If there has been a defining aspect of the NHL playoffs so far, it has been that getting payback for tough or questionable hits and plays is as much a goal for teams as scoring.

It’s not that fights and extracurricular rough stuff are uncommon to playoff hockey — they definitely aren’t — but there seems to be an eye-for-an-eye mentality that has taken hold.

In other words, should Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford be worried come Tuesday in
Game 3 against the Phoenix Coyotes?

Crawford’s standout play somehow has gotten lost in the shuffle. Coyotes goalie Mike Smith, meanwhile, has been in plenty of headlines. Hawks rookie Andrew Shaw’s head-to-mask collision with Smith in Game 2 has highlighted just how contentious the series has become.

Did Smith embellish his fall, considering he stayed in the game? Did Shaw do enough to avoid the contact?

Smith said Saturday through Coyotes staff members that he was 100 percent. But he didn’t practice Monday and hasn’t faced the media since Shaw’s hit. It’s possible the NHL has held up its decision on Shaw’s suspension to see if Smith plays Tuesday, despite Coyotes coach Dave Tippett’s insistence Monday that he’s fine.

Either way, Crawford isn’t overly concerned the Coyotes will seek revenge, but he’ll keep his head up.

‘‘If they want to come try it, try it,’’ Crawford said. ‘‘That’s all I’ve got to say. I’ll be ready.’’

The series hasn’t spiraled into the nasty realm that some of the other matchups around the league are in, but that doesn’t mean it won’t. As expected, the intensity picked up significantly in Game 2,
and it should continue that way, especially after Shaw’s hit on Smith. In Game 1, Shaw hurt Coyotes winger Radim Vrbata with a legal hit.

‘‘As you go through a series, you start to get little personal battles going on where you want to make sure you win those,’’ Coyotes veteran Shane Doan told the team’s website. ‘‘It’s time to get personal.’’

That said, the Hawks say they’ll be ready for anything. They have experience dealing with an aggressive opponent seemingly hellbent to mix things up, having faced the Vancouver Canucks so often at this time of year.

‘‘[The Coyotes are] going to be mad because they lost,’’ winger Bryan Bickell said. ‘‘They’ll be coming out hard.’’

Crawford was quietly solid in Games 1 and 2, especially if you discount the bad power-play goals the Hawks allowed. While Smith has received attention for his workload and ability to play pucks outside his crease, Crawford has made several top-notch saves at the other end to prevent the Coyotes from pulling away.

‘‘We don’t even have a chance there with the empty net if it’s not for Corey making a number of big saves late in the game and all throughout,’’ forward Patrick Sharp said. ‘‘He’s played well both games.’’

Crawford played extremely well through some of the Canucks’ antics last season and already has dealt with some net-crashing from the Coyotes.

‘‘The goalie is not fair game,’’ Crawford said. ‘‘Players usually just try and play the puck. Occasionally, you’ll get bumped or hit sometimes. That’s hockey. But you can’t go in there and deliberately hit the goalie, obviously.’’

Crawford, though, didn’t see Shaw’s hit as deliberate. Shaw has maintained he was playing the puck and was trying to avoid Smith’s stick as he swept the puck along the boards.

‘‘I saw the replay,’’ Crawford said. ‘‘We all know [Shaw] was trying to avoid what looked like maybe a stick in the face or something.’’

Of course, the Coyotes have a different take.

‘‘We know it’s going to get ugly sometimes,’’ Hawks center Jonathan Toews said. ‘‘It’s going to be intense, and bad things will happen. But as long as we’re playing clean and hitting hard, that’s all we can ask.’’

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