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Backup goalie Antti Raanta looking forward to pitching in

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Updated: December 20, 2013 6:22AM



It didn’t take long Sunday for goalie Antti Raanta to realize the NHL is a little different from ­Finland or Rockford.

‘‘It was pretty fun to come here and see in warmups,’’ Raanta said. ‘‘It was like, ‘Whoa, OK. Nice shots, buddies.’ ’’

Raanta, 24, was called up
before the Hawks’ 5-1 victory against the San Jose Sharks after Nikolai Khabibulin was placed on long-term injured reserve with a lower-body injury suffered Saturday against the Nashville Predators. Khabibulin has to miss at least 10 games and 24 days, and his salary doesn’t count against the cap during that time.

Khabibulin’s struggles have forced Corey Crawford to play in
19 of 21 games this season, and coach Joel Quenneville is looking to Raanta to ease the burden on his No. 1 goalie on the circus trip that begins Tuesday against the Colorado Avalanche.

Raanta, who was 7-5 with a 2.83 goals-against average and a .914 save percentage in Rockford, said he thinks he’s ready.

‘‘It’s so exciting to be here,’’ he said. ‘‘And, of course, the competition is much harder here, and you have to be every day the best you can be.

‘‘But that’s why you’re a goalie.’’

Raanta struggled during training camp and in his one preseason game, but he said his time in Rockford made him much more comfortable with the smaller North American rink and the different shooting angles it creates.

‘‘It has been getting all the time better and better,’’ he said.

Email: mlazerus@suntimes.com

Twitter: @marklazerus



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