If Lars Johansson was surprised by the turn of events that led to his call-up, he wasn’t showing it.
The goaltender has played a bulk of the Rockford IceHogs’ games this season before Saturday, when he was recalled after Corey Crawford was sidelined with appendicitis. And while he’s not sure how much he’ll play while with the Blackhawks, Johansson is ready to benefit from the experience, even if it’s solely in practices.
“I hope to learn a lot,” Johansson said prior to Sunday’s game, the first in which he served as backup goaltender for the Blackhawks. “It’s top players and they’re the best players in the world. I’m excited to face every shot from them and hopefully I can be a little bit better.”
Coach Joel Quenneville said Scott Darling will likely play “a big chunk” of the time Crawford is sidelined. That’s not surprising. But Quenneville said the organization has confidence in Johansson if he’s needed.
“When he came to our organization we thought he had a chance to play at this level,” Quenneville said. “He has size, experience coming up here, a chance to face NHL shooters and you never know. We know things change quickly in our business. We’ve seen over the last few years, everyone using three or four goalies deep. We’ll see with Lars. If he gets a chance to play, he’ll be fine.”
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Johansson has a 6-7-1 record (2.63 goals-against average and .911 save percentage) in his brief time with the Rockford IceHogs. After signing with the Blackhawks in May, Johansson faced the same issue as many who come from across the pond: adjusting to the North American ice. So Johansson got here well ahead of training camp this season to get used to the smaller surface. That, combined with his games in Rockford have Johansson feeling better.
“The shots can come quicker, and it’s tighter, crowded, in front of the net so you have to work a little bit more. But otherwise than that, yeah, the [trapezoid] where I can play the puck that was a bit different in the very beginning,” Johansson said. “It took me a couple of weeks but now you don’t even think about it anymore.”
Johansson will take this experience for whatever it brings. If it’s mostly practice, so be it. If he does get in a game, he’ll handle all the emotions that will come with that and go with it.
“If something were to happen, absolutely I would be nervous, excited for any new thing my whole career. It would be exciting most of all,” Johansson said. “If that happens, it happens. I just have to make myself prepared as good as I can now if that were to happen.”
Jonathan Toews will be out once again with an injury that’s “not getting better,” and Scott Darling will start when the Blackhawks face the Winnipeg Jets tonight at the United Center.
Toews, suffering from a reported back injury, skated on Sunday morning. But coach Joel Quenneville said later in the afternoon that the Blackhawks will keep Toews off the ice for about three days and then, “get a better assessment in the middle of the week.” Once listed as day-to-day, Toews, who was injured on Nov. 23, will now miss his sixth consecutive game.
“Well, you certainly miss his presence in all aspects of his team game, his leadership is as good as anyone who plays,” Quenneville said. “I still think you have to find a way to do what you can to make a contribution and make a simpler game plan.”
Gustav Forsling is expected to play tonight. With Nick Schmaltz reassigned to Rockford earlier on Sunday – to get playing time but also due to cap issues – Andrew Desjardins will move over to center the fourth line.
Darling will start his second consecutive game and is expected to get a bulk of the work with Corey Crawford sidelined after his appendectomy on Saturday. Lars Johansson was recalled to be the Blackhawks’ backup in Crawford’s absence.
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Connor Hellebuyck will start against the Blackhawks again tonight. Hellebuyck stopped 27 shots in a 4-0 victory over the Blackhawks on Nov. 15.
BLACKHAWKS VS. WINNIPEG JETS
Live Stream: CSNChicago.com/NBC Sports App
Radio: WGN 720 AM
Artemi Panarin-Artem Anisimov-Patrick Kane
Ryan Hartman-Vinnie Hinostroza -Marian Hossa
Dennis Rasmussen-Marcus Kruger -Richard Panik
Tyler Motte-Andrew Desjardins-Jordin Tootoo
Duncan Keith-Brian Campbell
Michal Kempny-Brent Seabrook
Gustav Forsling-Niklas Hjalmarsson
INJURIES: Jonathan Toews (upper body), Corey Crawford (appendix).
Winnipeg Jets (via Winnipeg Free Press)
Nikolaj Ehlers-Bryan Little-Patrik Laine
Drew Stafford-Mathieu Perrault-Blake Wheeler
Andrew Copp-Adam Lowry-Marko Dano
Brandon Tanev-Alexander Burmistrov-Chris Thorburn
Josh Morrissey-Dustin Byfuglien
Toby Enstrom-Jacob Trouba
Ben Chiarot-Paul Postma
INJURIES: Mark Scheifele (lower body), Joel Armia (lower body), Shawn Matthias (lower body), Tyler Myers (lower body).