-- It's a good thing Corey Crawford
had his cell phone on at the United Center Friday night.
Sitting in a suite near the top of the building for Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals, Crawford received a phone call just moments after the second period ended. It was Blackhawks goaltending coach Stephane Waite, who informed him of Nikolai Khabibulin
's lower-body injury.
Moments later, Crawford was racing for the dressing room, where he would suit up to be Cristobal Huet
's emergency backup.
It was a surreal experience for Crawford, who spent the 2008-09 regular season with the Rockford IceHogs in the American Hockey League. In 47 games, he went 22-20-3 with a 2.59 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage.
"That was different," joked Crawford, who could once again be Huet's backup for Game 4 if Khabibulin is unable to dress. "I was running around there in the hallway trying to get down. That was the fastest I ever got dressed in my life."
Crawford, a former second-round pick (2003) with seven games of NHL experience on his resume, was wowed by the intensity he was able to witness at ice level. He believes it will be helpful if for some reason he'd be thrust into action.
"I've played here before, but playoffs are another step up," said Crawford, who made 44 saves in a 3-1 loss to the Red Wings on March 11, 2008. "A team like Detroit, there's so many fast players and they can transition and turn the game around so quick. Just to be down there and watch the play from down there, if anything ever happens, it helps."
Chicago coach Joel Quenneville
applauded Crawford's quickness to get down to the dressing room, as well as Huet's ability to step in the way he did in Game 3 and help the Blackhawks survive the 4-3 win.
"Our goalies have been around for most of the playoffs here, and they've been waiting for a chance for this to happen," Quenneville said. "I know they've had some practice time with us throughout the playoffs here, but being actually in the game where you could have actually been a part of it is a big thrill.
"I've got to commend those two guys through the whole process. He's been a good kid. I thought he looked good in practice today. He's played some NHL games. I think we've got some depth there."
Crawford couldn't believe how calm and collected Huet was in his first live action since April 11. Huet faced six shots in the third period and stopped them all. Chicago held Detroit without a shot in the quick overtime.
"I've been in that situation in my first year in the American League, and that's tough," Crawford said. "I couldn't imagine at this level when you're getting thrown in that situation, but Huey's been working hard and doing everything he can to stay ready. It showed last night. A lot of credit goes to him."
Still, Crawford was only one play away from getting in the game himself -- something he couldn't possibly have expected on his way to the rink.
"Honestly, I was just so into the game," Crawford said. "It's way different when you're down there on the bench. You're so into it that you just don't think of anything else. It was neat to be down there and to be there for the winner. That was pretty awesome."
Contact Brian Compton at: email@example.com.