With regards to the Chicago Blackhawks‘ annual Circus Trip, injuries are the main point of emphasis throughout the media. After returning from a small injury, veteran winger Marian Hossa has left the team for personal reasons, and it is unclear if either he or center Michal Handzus will step on the ice Monday night against the Edmonton Oilers.
That being said, the main topic fans are asking about is when backup goaltender and highly coveted prospect Antti Raanta will make his first career NHL start. While Corey Crawford has performed admirably, his workload has concerned some people, and coach Joel Quenneville has made no attempt to hide the fact that Raanta will start within the next couple of games.
“We looked at our schedule here,” Quenneville told ESPN.com. “We’ve got time in between all our games and, Crow, that was the plan. Towards the end on the trip here, we’ll get (Raanta) going.”
The Blackhawks only have one back-to-back series during this trip — Friday against the Dallas Stars and Saturday against the Phoenix Coyotes. This is Raanta’s best shot, and the Stars should give him the best chance to prepare as opposed to the baptism by fire he received against the Colorado Avalanche earlier in the trip.
Dallas is a mid-level offensive team, ranking 15th overall in goals per game. However, their power play is 29th in the league, matching the Blackhawks 29th-best penalty kill. In the Blackhawks’ past two games, their penalty kill has only regressed. Against the Winnipeg Jets, the Blackhawks allowed Winnipeg to score twice on four attempts, including a 5-on-3 goal. Things did not improve against the Vancouver Canucks, who capitalized on a power play for their lone goal.
Dallas is also a bit cold, having not scored over two goals over the past three games, and they will likely not break this streak against the Anaheim Ducks. This only plays into the Blackhawks’ hands, giving Antti Raanta the best logistical and statistical chance to pick up his first NHL victory.
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