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Up-to-the minute updates and insights from the Red Wings locker room at home and on the road. By Chuck Pleiness of The Macomb Daily.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Corey Crawford’s mad dash

CHICAGO – Corey Crawford never considered himself a quick change artist.

“I’m usually a laid-back guy who’s kind of slow,” said Crawford.

Crawford, however, is a team guy. And on Friday night, he set what he believes to be his personal record for disrobing and putting on full goalie equipment.

It was part of a very unusual situation in hockey. The Blackhawks’ starting goalie, Nikolai Khabibulin, was injured during Friday’s Game 3 of the Western Conference final. In between the second and third period, it was determined that Khabibulin couldn’t continue to play and that backup Cristobal Huet would go in net against the Detroit Red Wings in a game that was tied 3-3.

The NHL has a rule in the playoffs that if a netminder is hurt, the team’s third goalie can dress and take the bench as the new backup.

So Crawford, a 24-year-old Montreal native who hasn’t played in an NHL regular-season or playoff game in more than a year, was one small injury away from being in net during a conference final.

“I didn’t really think about that, actually,” said Crawford after today’s practice. “I was just so into the game. When we were up there (in the stands), I was just so glued to it. Then when I got down here (in the locker room), you times that by 10 when you’re on the bench watching a playoff game like that. That didn’t really go through my mind until after then I realized it was a possibility.”

One month ago, Corey Crawford was tending goal for the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League. Today, he’ll likely be the backup goalie for the Blackhawks, one small Huet injury away from national television.

Khabibulin didn’t practice, yesterday. His coach, Joel Quenneville, said that he’ll be a game-time decision for Sunday afternoon’s Game 4 of the conference final.

Huet, however, was talking after practice as though he was going to start Sunday’s contest.

“I wasn’t really tested the whole game (Friday),” said Huet. “Really my test is going to be tomorrow.”

Huet was brought in this season by the Blackhawks as a possible No. 1 goalie, earning $5.625 million per season. Khabibulin is earning $6.75 million, so two of the Blackhawks’ top four salaries are goalies.

“We've seen (Huet) for a number of seasons,” said Detroit coach Mike Babcock. “He's a good goaltender. They brought him to Chicago to be the guy. Khabibulin beat him out.”

Khabibulin had played so well that Huet hadn’t seen game action in a month and a half.

“It’s been a while since I’ve been in a real game,” said Huet, a native of France. “Being focused and reading the plays, details like that didn’t take long to get back. It’s not something I recommend. To get the win was nice.”

For Crawford, Khabibulin’s injury was a lesson in preparedness.

Crawford was watching Game 3 from a suite when goalie coach Stephane Waite rang his cell phone, urging him to rush down to the locker room and get suited up.

“It was more of a wakeup call than anything,” said Crawford. “Our goalie coach called me and said, ‘Get down here and get dressed.’ I was like, ‘What?’”

Crawford got dressed and got to the Chicago bench with just a minute or two gone from the third period.

For the past few weeks, Crawford has been one of the Blackhawks’ black aces, practicing with the minor-league call-ups, occasionally raking part in an off-day practice with the Blackhawks.

“He’s been a good kid,” said Chicago coach Joel Quenneville. “I thought he looked good in practice (Saturday) as well. You know, he’s played some NHL games. I think we have some depth there.”

“I feel pretty good in practice,” said Crawford. “The key is just to work as hard as I can, take as many shots as I can to be ready. You never know what can happen.”


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