For Chicago goalies Corey Crawford
and Antti Niemi
, the time for talking has passed. The time for doing is at hand.
The two young goalies, vying for the role as backup to starter Cristobal Huet
, will split Monday night's Victoria Cup exhibition against HC Davos (2:15 p.m. ET, NHL.com, blackhawks.com) in a final attempt to impress coach Joel Quenneville
before cut-down day Wednesday.
The loser of this battle, which has raged throughout training camp, will be sent to Rockford of the American Hockey League to be that team's No. 1 goalie. It is a trip neither goalie wants to make. But both understand the stakes.
"I'm just going to try and go out there and not let any pucks go by me," Crawford said after Monday's morning skate. "I just need to stop the puck. I just need to focus on the situation."
"Today's a big chance to show what I can do," said Niemi, who will start Monday night's game. "I just need to concentrate on my own game and do well."
And, when Monday's game is done, Quenneville will have all the information he's going to have to make what he has repeatedly said will be the most difficult decision of this camp.
"It's been a pretty close battle all camp between the two of them," Quenneville said Monday. "You probably measure (performance in) games more than you do anything else."
Quenneville says that the unique circumstances of this game -- playing against an unknown opponent on a larger ice surface less than 72 hours after travelling to another continent -- will not factor in his appraisal.
"I think this team we're playing tonight is a pretty good hockey team," Quenneville said. "They are fast and they can make plays. We expect some time in our end and we expect some challenges."
Plus, the Hawks want to see how the young goalies mentally handle the hardships involved in Monday night's game.
"I think you have to adjust your game to whatever is in front of you," Quenneville told NHL.com. "Hopefully, it won't be an excuse when we have to make our decision. Every situation is different from the next situation, for a goalie, and that is what we are looking for tonight.
Crawford wasn't looking for excuses, either.
Asked if it is hard to play against an unknown opponent with a scouting report on the shooting tendencies of the Davos players, Crawford dismissed the suggestion.
"They play with the same sticks and it is still the same puck," Crawford said. "It's just a matter of reading the play and reading the shot and going out there and stopping the puck."
Crawford also said he doesn't think Niemi, who grew up on the bigger ice surface while playing in Finland, will have an advantage when it comes to playing the different angles caused by the wider ice. After all, Niemi played in North America last season and is used to the smaller rink.
No matter what happens, however, the goalies say the competition does not carry over off the ice.
"On the ice, we battle hard to make saves," Crawford said, noting the pair split time last season in Rockford, as well. "Off the ice, he's a good guy. Off the ice, it's different, but on the ice, it's a competition for sure."
Monday night, against Davos, that competition will come to an end, at least temporarily, with one of the two goalies earning the NHL backup job with his play against Davos.