Antti Raanta was one of the last Chicago Blackhawks to leave the ice after Thursday’s practice.
It’s a common habit of backup goaltenders to stay out there and get in a little extra work, and it’s a big help for Raanta right now.
“We were playing so much in December and there was no time to practice anything. You feel you lose the small things in a game and you need to practice those some on the ice. That’s the good thing about that,” he said. “Sometimes it’s just nice to have good practice time; you can get a lot of extra work in before and after.”
Raanta’s workload obviously isn’t as heavy now as it was in December, when starter Corey Crawford was sidelined about a month with a groin injury. While he’d love to be playing more, Raanta is taking advantage of every practice, every morning skate to keep honing his game.
“I got a chance to show my skills in December. Now it’s just trying to keep the feeling, try to keep the game face on and things like that,” Raanta said. “It’s different than a month ago, but there are a lot of different things going on in hockey, so you just have to get used to that.”
Coach Joel Quenneville said Raanta’s approached the lighter schedule as positively as he did the heavy one.
“He’s handled it great,” Quenneville said. “Every day he goes on the ice he wants to be great, he wants to stop every puck. His attitude’s great. He’s a very excited young man who’s here, has taken advantage of a great situation and helped with what we’re looking for.”
Raanta will certainly still get his starts. The Blackhawks have two more back-to-backs and that last lengthy road trip before they break for the Olympics on Feb. 8. The 24-year-old realizes the lesser workload right now is part of the gig. He’ll work in those practices, work in those morning skates and be ready when the next call comes.
“Like I was saying to some Finnish guys, if someone told me last summer I’d be the second goalie for the Blackhawks in January, I wouldn’t have believed it. I’m really happy to be here and everybody has been unreal to me,” he said. “Everybody wants to play but if you keep working hard, you’ll get the chance. Then when you get the chance, you just use the chance.”