CHICAGO -- The recent news that Nikolai Khabibulin would be sidelined four to five months with a shoulder injury caught Antti Raanta by such surprise that it took a while for it to sink in that the rookie is here to stay as the Blackhawks' backup goaltender.
"Nobody saw that coming and after a couple of minutes I was like, 'OK, maybe I'm going to stick around a little bit,'" Raanta said. "It gives me a little bit of space and a little bit of thinking that I don't have to push all the time -- be like a superstar in every game -- so you can a take little bit of a breath."
That doesn't mean Raanta is going to take anything for granted in his backup role to Corey Crawford, who got the start against the Avalanche on Tuesday night at the United Center.
"You never know what the (team) is thinking so I just try to work even harder to show them that I belong here and I try to earn all the minutes I'm getting and not just get the minutes because I'm the only backup now," Raanta said. "I try to do a good job in practice and every time I get the chance to play to be as good as possible."
The personable Raanta has won over his teammates since signing as a free agent during the summer and then recording a 12-1-3 record, 2.25 goals-against average and .911 save percentage, mostly while filling in for Khabibulin and the then-injured Crawford.
"I don't know if anyone expected him to be this good and this poised early on in his career," captain Jonathan Toews said."I remember watching him at the World Championships and some of the guys were saying how good of a goaltender he was and we ended up signing him.
"Look at last year with the way Ray Emery played behind Corey. When Corey has that support it pushes him to be better and as a team it helps so much more when we can have two solid goaltenders who are playing well and with such confidence."
He said it: Avalanche coach and Hockey Hall of Famer Patrick Roy on his memories of playing in Chicago as a goaltender for the Canadiens and Avs: "There was nobody in the stands. What's going on here now? We could barely see them on TV and (Monday) they were all over the place. It's great to see the fans back in Chicago. This is a great hockey town (and) a great city. It's nice to see the Blackhawks doing so well."
Keeping track: It was Michal Rozsival's turn in the three-man rotation as the Hawks' sixth defenseman. Michael Kostka and Sheldon Brookbank were the scratches against the Avalanche.
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