Raanta enjoying first trip to U.S.

July, 9, 2013
7/09/13
5:49
PM CT
Powers By Scott Powers
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- Antti Raanta's first experiences of the United States have been memorable.

They just haven't included playing hockey.

Raanta, who was signed by the Chicago Blackhawks from Finland in June, arrived in the United States for the first time on Sunday, but because of an undisclosed injury, which he described as minor, the goaltender won't participate in the on-ice portion of the Blackhawks prospect camp, which began Monday and ends on Friday.

"First time in the U.S. for me," the 24-year-old Raanta said at Johnny's IceHouse West on Tuesday. "Everything is bigger than I'm used to, so it's kind of fun to be here and see all the people, getting to know the city.

"I'm from a 38,000-people city from Finland, so the airport [in Chicago] was much more people than my hometown. It was kind of fun. Like the whole city is unreal. You have seen it on the movies, but you have never been here. I'm looking forward to it. I should go today to see more of the city and get some shopping in."

Aside from shopping, Raanta said his trip to Chicago would include meeting with the Blackhawks' doctors to discuss his injury. Raanta said he suffered the injury during this past season in Finland.

"The doctors will see it, and they're going to make the decision what to do," Raanta said. "It's going to be like a short break, not so long. I don't think [it'll require surgery.] It's a small thing."

Raanta said he first heard from the Blackhawks in February and was impressed they were interested despite his team's struggles in SM-liiga in Finland.

Raanta and the team's play picked up as the season progressed. He was named the league's regular-season and playoff MVP. He had a 21-10-11 record with five shutouts, a 1.85 goals-against average and a .943 save percentage in the regular season. He signed a one-year deal with the Blackhawks in early June.

For Raanta to continue that success in the NHL, he said he'll first have to get used to playing on the smaller North American hockey rink.

"I was hoping to go on the ice and [get] to know the rink size because it's smaller than I'm used to, but hopefully I have time to go on the ice when the training camp starts and be ready for there," Raanta said. "I think guys are coming harder to the net and obviously the angles are different than I'm used to. We'll see when I get to the ice."

Even if that transition goes smooth, Raanta expects to start his Blackhawks career with the Rockford IceHogs in the AHL. He wasn't surprised the Blackhawks recently signed Nikolai Khabibulin to back up Corey Crawford in net.

"It was kind of obvious they were going to take some goalie there," said Raanta, who compared his playing style to Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask. "They didn't promise me I'm going to be in the first two goalies, so I know I have to [work a lot] to get upstairs and get to games in the NHL. I'm ready for that. If I have to go to the AHL, I'm ready for that also.

"Of course, the training camp is crucial. If that goes good, maybe some time I get the chance, but I have to be ready for battling in Rockford also. I don't think those things now. I just try to get to good shape and be ready for training camp."

Handzus sighting: Blackhawks forward Michal Handzus, who recently re-signed with the team, made an appearance at Johnny's IceHouse West on Tuesday and was wearing a brace on his left knee and a cast on his right arm that stretched from above his elbow to past his wrist.

Handzus had three goals, eight assists and a plus-7 rating during the Blackhawks' Stanley Cup run. It was revealed after the season he had played with a broken wrist and a torn MCL during the Stanley Cup finals.

A media request to speak with Handzus was denied.

McNeill injury: Blackhawks forward Mark McNeill, a first-round pick in 2011, missed the off-ice portion of the prospect camp Tuesday after being hit in the back of the leg with puck during practice.

McNeill had to be assisted off the ice and into the locker room after being struck by the puck during the morning practice session, but he returned to practice about five minutes later. He will be re-evaluated on Wednesday.

McNeill was unavailable to the media.
Scott Powers is a general reporter for ESPNChicago.com. He is an award-winning journalist and has been reporting on preps, colleges and pros for publications throughout the Midwest since 1997.

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Patrick Kane
PTS GOALS AST +/-
39 18 21 10
OTHER LEADERS
GoalsP. Kane 18
AssistsP. Kane 21
+/-K. Versteeg 15
GAAC. Crawford 2.00