CHICAGO - Chicago rookie Scott Darling will start in goal in place of Corey Crawford for the Blackhawks against the Nashville Predators in Game 3 of their first-round playoff series.
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said his decision was strictly performance-driven with the series tied 1-1 heading into Sunday's game in Chicago.
"Scotty's coming of a spectacular outing and I think his play is deserving of getting a start here at home," Quenneville said in a conference call Saturday. "(Crawford's) got two games where's he's been OK and we've got a game where Scott has been outstanding. So, it's one of those situatons where both guys are getting consideration for the net."
Crawford allowed three goals on 12 shots in the first period of Game 1 on Wednesday night in Nashville. Darling took over at the start of the second period to make his playoff debut and stopped all 42 shots the rest of the way, making some terrific saves as the Blackhawks rallied for a 4-3 win in double overtime.
Crawford played all of Game 2 on Friday night in Nashville's 6-2 victory. He dropped to the ice too quickly on Colin Wilson's opening power-play goal just 2:47 into the game.
Chicago trailed only 3-2 midway through the third period, but Nashville scored three times in a 2:19 span late to pull away.
The switch for Sunday's game doesn't mean that Darling will be Chicago's starter for Game 4, let alone beyond that, Quenneville emphasized.
"We never go further than the next game when we're taking goalies," Quenneville said. "It's a tough decision for us. I know (Crawford), he's done so much for us in the past and he's had a tremendous year."
The 6-foot-6 Darling made his NHL debut with a win at Ottawa on Oct. 26 and appeared in 14 games, going 9-4-0 with a 1.94 goals-against average.
Crawford appeared in 57 regular-season games, posting 32 wins and a 2.27 goals-against average.
He backstopped the Blackhawks to their last Stanley Cup in 2013, playing every minute of Chicaago's 23 post-season games. Crawford went 16-9 with a 1.84 goals-against average and .932 save percentage.
Quenneville said he didn't tell Crawford directly about the switch for Sunday; he let goaltending coach Jimmy Waite break the news.
"I will see Corey face to face in the morning," Quenneville said. "I haven't talked to Jimmy after I talked to him. I would expect (Crawford) to handle it like a pro."
Regardless of who's in goal, star forward Patrick Kane said the Blackhawks needs to pick up their play.
"Whoever's in net we'll support and try to give our best effort for," said Kane minutes before the goaltending announcement.
Quenneville said other he won't make decisions on other roster changes until Sunday. Veteran centre Antoine Vermette, acquired from Arizona at the trade deadline, has sat out the first two games of the series.
Although hard-shooting Nashville star defenceman Shea Weber will not make the trip to Chicago due to an injury suffered in Game 2, the Blackhawks said that won't affect their game plan against the Predators' deep blue line corps.
"I don't' know if it changes much," Kane said. "It seems like they played pretty well without him. That's a big key player."