DALLAS – Corey Crawford will be out about three weeks with a groin injury he sustained on Sunday, and Antti Raanta will be in net tonight – and probably for a bit after – as the Chicago Blackhawks play the Dallas Stars at American Airlines Center.
Crawford was hurt in the first period of the Blackhawks’ 6-2 victory over the Florida Panthers. Coach Joel Quenneville said after that game that he didn’t think Crawford’s injury was that serious, but three weeks is three weeks. It’s another unhealthy blow to the Blackhawks’ goaltending corps; Nikolai Khabibulin suffered a lower-body injury last month and Quenneville said it’s still going to be “a bit” until he gets on the ice.
Kent Simpson was recalled on Monday, prior to the Blackhawks’ departure for Dallas. Whether the Blackhawks just stick with Raanta and Simpson for the time Crawford’s gone or look for goaltending elsewhere, Quenneville wasn’t sure.
“(Simpson) deserved a chance to come up here,” he said. “So right now, they’re both here and (Simpson) could get a chance to play.”
For now, Raanta’s the No. 1 guy. He’s handled a lot of pressure well, from adjusting to the North American ice to coming up to Chicago quicker than anticipated and performing strong in his appearances. Just add one more challenge for Raanta, who’s eager to accept it but not take it for granted.
“If someone gets hurt, you get your chance. Of course, now, it’s up to me. Even though I maybe have the No. 1 spot now, it (means) nothing if you’re not ready to play,” Raanta said. “I’ll just try to do my best. It’s pretty weird to think a month ago I was in Rockford. Now I’m here and everyone’s putting me in net.”
The Blackhawks have said they’re confident in Raanta, and reiterated that today.
“The short period of time he’s been here, he’s done great,” Brandon Bollig said of Raanta. “We were confident going into his first NHL start. We’re comfortable with him I net and there are no doubts he can get it done. It’s ice to have depth there (at goaltender) in the system.”
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Meanwhile, Simpson will wait to find out if and when he gets his start. Quenneville was unsure yet how the starts would be divvied between Raanta and Simpson; the Blackhawks have a back to back with Dallas tonight and Philadelphia tomorrow. Regardless, Simpson will take advantage of whatever chance he gets.
“It’s what you work your whole summer and life for, to show you can play at this level and show this is where you want to be and where you belong,” said Simpson, who has a 6-7-0 record with a 3.38 goals-against average with the IceHogs. “With Antti coming up earlier, it was nice to get some games under my belt and play more. I’ve played better lately, so it’s been good.”