Everything was set up perfectly for the Blackhawks.
Corey Crawford was going to make his final start of the season Friday in the team’s home finale then backup Cam Ward would play in his 700th career NHL game Saturday in the season finale in Nashville.
Those plans changed during the second period in Chicago’s 6-1 win over the Stars at the United Center. Crawford exited with a groin injury and Ward made 25 saves on 26 shots in relief. Crawford’s injury isn’t believed to be serious, but he won’t travel with the team to Nashville.
Enter Kevin Lankinen, who was recalled from the Rockford IceHogs in the AHL on an emergency basis. The 23-year-old Finnish netminder is in his first professional season in North American and hasn’t played in the NHL, yet.
Ward already reached his milestone accomplishment. The Blackhawks are eliminated from playoff contention so they have nothing to play for and should give Lankinen the start.
Lankinen is in the first year of his two-year contract he signed last May and figures to be in contention for the starting job next season in the AHL. He’s 5-2-1 in his last eight outings, and 7-7-4 with a 2.47 goals-against average and .911 save percentage in 18 AHL games this season.
The Blackhawks have an opportunity to see what Lankinen can give them next season and in future, and they should capitalize on it by giving him the start.