- Jesse Rogers, ESPN Staff Writer
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VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville confirmed what he hinted at after Thursday’s 3-1 win against the Calgary Flames: Antti Niemi will get a second straight start in net against the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday.
“Based on how well he’s played, keep him going,” Quenneville said after Friday’s practice at GM Place in Vancouver. “That’s all part of it. Everybody gets a chance to get some confidence and I think that’s all part of it [as well] ... Every goalie goes through stretches where they are hot so we want to make sure he keeps playing. He’s played well all year long and we liked the way he’s played on this trip as well.”
It marks the first time Niemi will start two games in a row this season but it doesn’t necessarily mean a changing of the guard in net. Quenneville agreed that backups often get to play when they are hot or when a starter is having a rough patch. Both are true in this case, but Quenneville is expecting a bounce back from Cristobal Huet soon.
“[He’s a] very competitive guy in his own right and I think he’s looking forward for the chance to get back in there as well,” Quenneville said. “He’s working hard with [goaltending coach Stephane Waite].”
Huet understands why Quenneville is going back to Niemi for the third time in four games.
“He has that luxury to go to Antti when I’m not playing my A-game and it gives me time to recharge and come back stronger,” Huet said. “I have to get my feel back and a little bit of my drive. The practice has been good. Sometimes you take a step back and relax mentally and recharge the battery.”
John Madden had several good scoring chances Thursday night but was turned away by Miikka Kiprusoff. “I told the guys I had a better chance of returning a kick in the NFL than I did scoring a goal. I mean he let one in off of Eager’s foot and the other Kane fanned on a one timer. Maybe I should have done that.”
Another sign of how well the Hawks played against the Flames: JJarome Iginla had zero shots on goal.
Patrick Kane finally threw down his gloves, albeit in practice and against a teammate. He and Patrick Sharp were playing keep away on Friday and things got a little testy. “Gloves off, helmet off, everything,” Kane joked. “We were just kidding around.”
Kane likes coming to Vancouver. “The weather is pretty nice right now and you see a lot of pretty girls walking up and down the streets so obviously that’s a good thing. And it’s a hockey city too, so you have fun with that.”