Antti Raanta was a superb substitute for an injured Corey Crawford in the Chicago Blackhawks’ latest game and is expected to make a second straight start with Crawford likely to miss a short road trip.
Following his second career shutout, Raanta will try to lead the Blackhawks to their second win in six days against the Nashville Predators on Thursday night.
Raanta was told at the morning skate Tuesday that he would make his first appearance of the season against Philadelphia because of Crawford’s upper-body injury. The late notice hardly fazed him as he stopped 32 shots in a 4-0 victory, with Patrick Kane providing support with a pair of power-play goals.
“It’s been a long time since (Raanta has) played a real meaningful game,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “Outstanding response, and that’s got to give him a ton of confidence.”
With Crawford expected to remain in Chicago, Raanta should be in net for at least the first of two road games.
Replacing Crawford for multiple contests is not a new experience for Raanta, who went 8-1-2 with a 2.27 goals-against average in 11 consecutive appearances after Crawford suffered a groin injury Dec. 8.
Raanta made 27 saves in a 3-1 win in Nashville on Dec. 17 during that stretch, but Chicago (4-0-1) lost three subsequent meetings before a 2-1 overtime victory Saturday.
Jonathan Toews scored the winning short-handed goal and Crawford made 19 saves. The Blackhawks held a 37-20 shot advantage over the Predators, who were finishing off a set of back-to-back games.
“It was a tough team to play against the other night even on a back-to-back. I’m sure they’re going to be even better in their building,” said Kane, whose 17 goals against Nashville are his most versus any opponent.
The Predators (4-0-2) are the only other Western Conference team without a regulation loss. They defeated Arizona 4-3 in a shootout Tuesday, as Ryan Ellis scored the winning goal in the tiebreaker after recording a career-high three points on a goal and two assists.
It was just the fifth win in the last 21 shootouts for Nashville, with their most recent one being a 3-2 loss to Calgary on Oct. 14. That’s the Predators’ lone defeat in four home games.
“The guys have played hard, and they’ve fought. When things have gone well, they’ve continued to push,” coach Peter Laviolette said. “When things haven’t gone well, they try to do their best to get things going in the right direction.”
Nashville hasn’t won five of its first seven games since opening 8-0-0 in 2005-06.
The Predators went 2-1-0 in three home games against Chicago in 2013-14, scoring seven goals in both of the victories. Raanta was in net for the most recent visit, a 7-5 loss April 12 in which Nashville scored five times in the third period and got the go-ahead goal with 59 seconds remaining.
Predators captain Shea Weber had a goal and an assist in that victory and scored his team’s goal Saturday. He has five goals and five assists in his last eight matchups with Chicago.
*Photo courtesy of Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images