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Blackhawks' Crawford leaves game with injury

by Brian Hedger

CHICAGO -- Chicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford was helped from the ice in the first period of the Blackhawks' 6-2 win against the Florida Panthers on Sunday with a lower-body injury. He did not return.

"I haven't talked to the [doctors], but I don't think it's too serious," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "But when it's a goalie, it's a little more serious than other players because of how important he is to our team."

Crawford stopped all four shots he faced before the injury. After making a right-pad save against Marcel Goc, he dropped to the ice and couldn't get up without help. Play continued for 18 seconds with Crawford down on both knees, unable to stand, before a stoppage allowed Chicago athletic trainer Mike Gapski to get to him.

Gapski and defenseman Brent Seabrook helped Crawford, the NHL leader in wins (17), off the ice.

"That's the first thing everybody wants to know," Quenneville responded when asked if he initially feared a major injury. "You're concerned. We'll have a better assessment [Monday], but I think we're along those lines."

The Blackhawks don't practice Monday, so the next update on Crawford likely won't come until Tuesday prior to Chicago's game against the Dallas Stars. Crawford was 17-6-3 with a 2.49 GAA and .906 save percentage entering the game.

Rookie Antti Raanta, who was called up in November to replace injured Nikolai Khabibulin as Chicago's backup goalie, picked up the win in relief to improve to 3-0-1. He made 29 saves and helped kill two Panthers power plays shortly after entering the game.

Chicago, which held a 2-0 lead at the time Crawford was injured, snapped a three-game winless skid.

Khabibulin has missed 12 straight games with a lower-body injury sustained Nov. 16 against the Nashville Predators. He has not resumed on-ice activities, according to Quenneville. That means 24-year old Raanta, the MVP of the Finnish Elite League last season, is the most likely candidate to be the starter until Crawford or Khabibulin return.

"That's the job that I came here to do," said Raanta, who signed with the Blackhawks as a free agent last season. "If they think I'm going to the net [for Crawford], I'm going to the net and I'll try to be as good as possible."

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