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At the Rink blog

Blackhawks' Raanta gets 'big stage' against Avalanche

Wednesday, 03.12.2014 / 3:49 PM

By Rick Sadowski  -  NHL.com Correspondent / 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

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2013-2014 At the Rink Blog
Blackhawks' Raanta gets 'big stage' against Avalanche

DENVER -- Colorado Avalanche coach Patrick Roy was skeptical that rookie goalie Antti Raanta, rather than Corey Crawford, would start Wednesday for the Chicago Blackhawks at Pepsi Center.

"We'll see at game time," Roy said after the morning skate.

Raanta will make his first start since Jan. 28 with second place in the Central Division on the line. Chicago (38-13-14) has a one-point lead (90-89) on third-place Colorado (42-18-5) and each team has 17 games remaining.

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville decided on Raanta because Crawford has struggled against the Avalanche, who went 3-1-0 in the first four games between the teams this season. But Quenneville said Crawford would play if the teams meet in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"I think we've played some big games against them this year. We don't like our record and we're making a change," Quenneville said. "[Raanta] has played well for us all year. He hasn't played in a bit. We want to get him in here and we're giving him a big stage here as well. We're confident he can get the job done. He's had some big stretches. He was the guy for us and really put us in a good spot when [Crawford] was hurt. It'll definitely be a good measuring stick for him."

Crawford has a 2-6-2 record against the Avalanche, who will start goalie Semyon Varlamov. Varlamov has won a career-high 32 games, is 6-3-0 against the Blackhawks and is seeking his 100th NHL win.

Raanta made 16 saves in Chicago's 7-2 win against Colorado on Dec. 27 and stopped 14 of 16 shots in relief of Crawford on Nov. 19 in the Blackhawks' 5-1 loss to the Avalanche.

Raanta was pulled from that Jan. 28 game after allowing four goals on 15 shots in what ended as a 5-4 overtime loss to the Calgary Flames.

"I've been good the last couple of weeks in practice, good saves there," said Raanta, who is 12-2-3 with a 2.40 goals-against average and .904 save percentage. "You're feeling good and making all the right moves in practice. Hopefully I'll get those in the game. Every game is big for me and the team. It's nice to play these kind of games because it's not too long before the playoffs start. We have to get our game a little bit better and start taking points when we need those and start playing 60 minutes.

"It's nice to get the start and nice to get a start in this kind of game. Just try to make the saves look easy. Hopefully everybody can be happy for me after the game."

Avalanche center Matt Duchene said it didn't make any difference who starts in goal for the Blackhawks.

"They're both good goalies," he said. "Crawford is their No. 1 but they obviously have confidence in both of them. I don't think we read much into that. It's kind of an exhibition playoff game in a way. We're probably going to see these guys or St. Louis in the first round if we don't go on a big run. It could be a first-round matchup, so we want to set the tone right now."

Because of injuries to forwards PA Parenteau (knee) and Paul Stastny (back), the Avalanche called up rookie center Paul Carey and left wing Brad Malone from the Lake Erie Monsters of the American Hockey League, and they'll play on the fourth line with right wing Patrick Bordeleau. Carey, a fifth-round selection (No. 135) in the 2007 NHL Draft out of Boston College, will make his NHL debut.

Here are the projected lineups for the Avalanche and Blackhawks:

BLACKHAWKS

Brandon Saad - Jonathan Toews - Andrew Shaw

Patrick Sharp - Michal Handzus - Patrick Kane

Bryan Bickell - Peter Regin - Kris Versteeg

Brandon Bollig - Marcus Kruger - Ben Smith

Duncan Keith - Brent Seabrook

Johnny Oduya - Niklas Hjalmarsson

Nick Leddy - David Rundblad

Antti Raanta

Corey Crawford

Scratched: Sheldon Brookbank, Michal Rozsival

Injured: Marian Hossa (upper body), Nikolai Khabibulin (shoulder)

AVALANCHE

Ryan O'Reilly - Matt Duchene - Jamie McGinn

Gabriel Landeskog - John Mitchell - Nathan MacKinnon

Cody McLeod - Marc-Andre Cliche - Maxime Talbot

Brad Malone - Paul Carey - Patrick Bordeleau

Jan Hejda - Erik Johnson

Andre Benoit - Nick Holden

Nate Guenin - Tyson Barrie

Nick Holden

Semyon Varlamov

Jean-Sebastien Giguere

Scratched: Cory Sarich, Ryan Wilson

Injured: PA Parenteau (knee), Paul Stastny (back), Alex Tanguay (hip surgery)

Quote of the Day

It's such a privilege to be one of these 80 great players to do this milestone, and it doesn't get better than this doing it where I started. It means a lot to me. A big thanks goes to all the players tonight who helped me to achieve that and also all the players through my career.

— Chicago Blackhawks forward Marian Hossa after scoring his 1,000th career point on Thursday night in Ottawa
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