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Blackhawks looking to rebound against Sharks

by Brian Hedger

CHICAGO -- The way the Chicago Blackhawks' weekend started Saturday night in the "Music City," they're hoping to sing a different tune after playing the San Jose Sharks on Sunday at United Center.

Not only did the Nashville Predators defeat them 7-2 at Bridgestone Arena, the Blackhawks also played without Marian Hossa, a late scratch because of a lower-body injury, and lost goalie Nikolai Khabibulin to an undisclosed injury in the first period.

"Definitely it was a tough one," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. "I think we should all be disappointed here. We'll talk to them here [about it]. I'm sure everybody wants to right the ship immediately and that will be the challenge and test tonight. We're playing a real good team, so it'll be a good evaluation tonight to see how we respond."

Corey Crawford, who was supposed to get a day off, finished the game and allowed five of the seven goals. He'll go again Sunday against the Sharks, who have one of the most potent offenses in the League.

Quenneville said Hossa is out against the Sharks but might be ready for the start of the annual circus trip Tuesday in Colorado. Khabibulin was put on injured reserve Saturday afternoon and "could be out for a bit."

Rookie Antti Raanta was called up from Rockford of the American Hockey League and will backup Crawford against the Sharks.

"Well we've got a seven-game trip, [Monday] we're leaving, and we expect [Raanta] to play on the trip," Quenneville said. "I don't know how many games he's going to play, but he's going to play some games."

The Blackhawks signed Raanta last spring to a one-year contract out of the Finnish Elite League, where he led the Assat Pori to the SM-liiga championship. The 24-year old was 7-5-0 with a 2.83 goals-against average and .914 save percentage at the time of his call up.

"He played very well [Saturday], coming off a big win," Quenneville said. "He's had some good games. I'm sure he's going to be excited for this chance and we'll see him in practice, as well. It's an exciting time for him and we're looking forward to seeing him play."

Another Finnish goalie with ties to the Blackhawks and the same first name, Antti Niemi, will be in goal for the Sharks. After backstopping the Blackhawks to the 2010 Stanley Cup title, Niemi signed with San Jose as a free agent and was a finalist for the Vezina Trophy last season.

He's already off to a great start this season, with a 10-2-5 record, two shutouts, a 2.13 GAA and .918 save percentage.

As for his team, the Sharks have won three games in a row and are 5-1-4 in their past 10 games. San Jose is wrapping up a five-game road trip and has needed overtime or a shootout to decide six of the past eight games.

Here is how the Sharks and Blackhawks might lineup Sunday night:


Patrick Marleau - Logan Couture - James Sheppard

Tomas Hertl - Joe Thornton - Tommy Wingels

John McCarthy - Joe Pavelski - Tyler Kennedy

Matthew Nieto - Andrew Desjardins - Mike Brown

Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Dan Boyle

Brad Stuart - Justin Braun

Scott Hannan - Jason Demers

Antti Niemi

Alex Stalock

Scratched: Martin Havlat, Matt Irwin

Injured: Adam Burish (back), Raffi Torres (knee)

Note: During line rushes in the morning skate, Brown and Havlat alternated at right wing of the fourth line. Either could play in that spot.


Patrick Sharp - Jonathan Toews - Kris Versteeg

Brandon Saad - Brandon Pirri - Patrick Kane

Bryan Bickell - Andrew Shaw - Sheldon Brookbank

Brandon Bollig - Marcus Kruger - Ben Smith

Duncan Keith - Brent Seabrook

Johnny Oduya - Niklas Hjalmarsson

Nick Leddy - Michal Rozsival

Corey Crawford

Antti Raanta

Scratched: Marian Hossa

Injured: Michael Kostka (foot), Michal Handzus (upper body), Nikolai Khabibulin (undisclosed)

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