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Blackhawks goalie Raanta set for first NHL start

by Aaron Vickers

CALGARY -- Antti Raanta knew well in advance he'd be making his first career NHL start against the Calgary Flames on Wednesday, but that didn't stop the 24-year-old goalie from getting a good night's sleep.

It won't spoil his pregame nap either.

Told Tuesday he'd get the call against the Flames, Raanta has prepared for the start like the day was any other.

"It was like a normal day [Tuesday]," he said. "The night went good. Of course it's a big day for me. I don't want to start thinking too much that I start taking too much pressure. If I do that, I will see it on the scoreboard and that's not the plan, what I want to do.

"I'll try to get a good game day nap like a normal routine going on and not think about it too much because it's not going to go too well. I just have to be enjoying the moment and try to show everything what I have. This is a big day."

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville is curious to see what he has in Raanta.

"He's a young kid," Quenneville said. "He's got some enthusiasm in his game and works hard every day. He's got some life when he's not playing. He's ready to go in there any moment. He finally gets the chance to start a game and I'm sure he's thrilled. It's a great opportunity for him and hopefully we respond in front of him as well."

Raanta, signed by Chicago this summer, has made his first NHL appearance, making 14 saves on 16 shots in 47 minutes in relief of starter Corey Crawford in a 5-1 loss against the Colorado Avalanche on Nov. 19.

That experience gave the Rauma, Finland native some confidence heading into his first start.

"There were a couple good saves and I knew after the game that I can play at this level," said Raanta. "Of course there are still lots of things to come. We'll see what happens."

Calgary coach Bob Hartley is hoping Raanta's first start isn't as successful as Reto Berra's.

Berra, who will make his seventh straight start, made 42 saves in his NHL debut, a 3-2 overtime win at Chicago's expense in early November.

"You know what, the Blackhawks didn't take too much out of Reto Berra's lack of experience," Hartley said. "You never know. Goalies can look great in their first game or they can look awful. Hopefully it's the second case."

Still, Hartley is aware of Raanta's resume.

"My reports say he was the best in the Finnish league last year," he said. "We're going to find out. There's so many European goalies right now in the League that you need to go on long-distance phone calls to get some scouting reports."


Mike Cammalleri - Matt Stajan - Lee Stempniak

Sven Baertschi - Sean Monahan - Jiri Hudler

Lance Bouma - Joe Colborne - David Jones

Blair Jones - Mikael Backlund - Brian McGrattan

Kris Russell - TJ Brodie

Ladislav Smid - Chris Butler

Derek Smith - Dennis Wideman

Reto Berra

Karri Ramo

Scratched: Christopher Breen, Shane O'Brien

Injured: Curtis Glencross (MCL sprain), Mark Giordano (broken ankle), TJ Galiardi (back spasms)


Patrick Sharp - Jonathan Toews - Marian Hossa

Brandon Saad - Michal Handzus - Patrick Kane

Kris Versteeg - Brandon Pirri - Andrew Shaw

Brandon Bollig - Marcus Kruger - Ben Smith

Duncan Keith - Brent Seabrook

Johnny Oduya - Niklas Hjalmarsson

Nick Leddy - Sheldon Brookbank

Antti Raanta

Corey Crawford

Scratched: Michal Rozsival

Injured: Bryan Bickell (lower body), Nikolai Khabibulin (lower body), Michael Kostka (lower body)

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