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updated: 11/22/2010 10:51 PM

Cool Crawford delivering for Blackhawks

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  • Corey Crawford makes a save in Saturday's 7-1 Blackhawks victory at Vancouver.

    Corey Crawford makes a save in Saturday's 7-1 Blackhawks victory at Vancouver.
    Associated Press


Once upon a time Corey Crawford was considered the Blackhawks' goalie of the future.

Then he wasn't not after Antti Niemi entered the picture and did what he did last season.

Now with Niemi gone, Crawford again has emerged as someone the Hawks could look at to solve their long-term goaltending needs.

Crawford has played well this season as Marty Turco's backup, giving the Hawks a chance to win in each of his six starts. Not only that, the 25-year-old Crawford has demonstrated good technique and a quiet confidence that impresses his teammates.

"He's a pretty cool guy back there," Jonathan Toews said. "He doesn't let the pressure bother him."

Crawford has won his last two starts, including Saturday's 7-1 victory at Vancouver when he made several clutch stops while it was still a game.

He is 3-4 for the year, with 1 of those losses coming in relief of Turco, with a solid 2.39 goals-against average and .916 save percentage.

"I think going into the season we all knew he could play at this level," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "It was a matter of opportunity and getting ready to play for us.

"He's been ready to go, and he's been good every time he's been in the net. We like what he brings. We like his patience, composure and size in there."

It's a whole new role for Crawford, being the backup and getting to play maybe once a week. At this rate Crawford might get 20-25 starts when in his five seasons in the minors he never appeared in fewer than 45 games.

"It's harder to get the same feeling," Crawford said. "It takes a little time to get the feeling back, but I have to make that adjustment and go with it. There's no excuse and I have to be ready."

Every game Crawford gets to play only adds to his development as the kind of NHL goalie the Hawks believe he can become.

"The more experience I get the better I get," Crawford said. "I'm confident and I'm hungry to get ice time. Whenever I get the call I just worry about what I can do and prepare myself for it."

Quenneville won't announce his starting goalie for Wednesday's game at San Jose until after practice Tuesday, and while the chances are it's Turco, it sure would be interesting to see Crawford face Niemi.

Way back at training camp last season it was Crawford and Niemi competing to be Cristobal Huet's backup. Niemi won, in large part because he would have needed to clear waivers to be sent to Rockford and the Hawks feared losing him.

The rest is history.

Niemi went on to help lead the Hawks to the Stanley Cup, then was allowed to walk as a free agent after his $2.75 million win in salary arbitration didn't fit into general manager San Bowman's tight budget under the cap.

Niemi ultimately signed a one-year deal with the Sharks for $2 million. But he struggled and has lost the No. 1 job to Antero Niittymaki.

If Niemi starts against his former team he will be looking to improve his 2-4-1 record, 3.91 goals-against average and .878 save percentage.