Goalie Antti Raanta simply has been too good to send back to Rockford
BY MARK LAZERUS Staff Reporter January 3, 2014 10:38PM
Updated: February 5, 2014 6:05AM
NEWARK, N.J. — Coach Joel Quenneville has been coy about what Antti Raanta’s role will be going forward with the Blackhawks in light of Corey Crawford’s return from injury. But it comes down to something quite simple: Raanta has been too good to send back to Rockford.
“Antti coming in and doing what he did was very remarkable,” Quenneville said Friday after Raanta was named co-rookie of the month with Kings goalie Martin Jones. “He put us in a good spot as a team. So it’s great for him and a good start to his career.”
Raanta entered Friday’s start against the Devils with a 10-1-3 record, a 2.21 goals-against average and a .913 save percentage. And while Raanta surely would get more playing time in Rockford, Jason LaBarbera was expected to be sent there after the game instead, with Raanta staying on as Crawford’s backup.
Last season, Crawford started 28 games, and Ray Emery started 19. Quenneville wouldn’t commit to such a ratio for the rest of the season just yet but has shown plenty of faith in Raanta.
“Tough to say,” he said. “Right now, I would say that Crow’s going to get more of the games, and we’ll go from there.”
Patrick Kane was named the NHL’s “first star” of the month for the second consecutive month. Kane had seven goals and a league-high 16 assists with a plus-14 rating in 14 games in December.
“He’s had a great year,” Quenne-ville said. “It’s hard to do what he did, go back-to-back.”
The Hawks entered Friday’s game having killed 23 of 25 power plays over their previous seven games. They’re still 28th in the league at 76.7 percent, but there has been steady improvement.
“Much better,” Quenneville said. “You’re going to have good stretches and bad stretches in a season, and hopefully we [already] went through the tough time for the whole year.”