04/02/2010 4:49 PM - From chicagoblackhawks.com: (link)
NEWARK, N.J. -- Chicago coach Joel Quenneville doesn't see any good reason to tell the media or really anyone that Antti Niemi is his choice as the Blackhawks' goalie going into the playoffs, but his actions are speaking a heck of a lot louder than his words lately.
Niemi will start Friday night in New Jersey for the third time in four nights and the seventh time in the last eight games. He's coming off a 4-0 win at Minnesota on Tuesday, his seventh shutout of the season.
Quenneville, who started Niemi Tuesday after what was an OK performance in a loss at St. Louis the night before, also wouldn't say if Cristobal Huet will get into a game soon. If Niemi gets hot, it's possible that Huet won't play another minute this season.
"We'll see," Quenneville said. "We don't want to go too far out. I know we have a lot of games in not a lot of time, so we'll see. (Niemi) is playing three in four nights on this trip and we're going to go one game at a time right now. We're trying to win games and that's a priority right now. If we get (Huet) in we'll get him in. We'll see."
It's mainly a coaching philosophy of Quenneville's not to tip his hand too much on anything, so it's not really a surprise that he won't formally name Niemi as the No. 1 goalie. He said he prefers announcing his starter before the game.
"I'm comfortable with that," Quenneville said. "That's the way it is and that's it."
Even Niemi said the goalies don't typically find out until the day before the game, but the 26-year-old Finn has clearly been the better goalie this season with a 21-7-3 record, a .911 save percentage and a 2.24 goals-against average that is third best in the League.
Huet is 26-14-4 with a 2.50 GAA but he owns a poor .895 save percentage. He gave up seven goals on 27 shots at Columbus last Thursday and has allowed 14 goals over his last three appearances. He's only played six times in 15 games since the Olympic break.
Niemi at least quietly understands it's his job to lose now.
"I try not to think too much about it," he told NHL.com, "but of course they're letting me play so anything is possible. I try to go pretty much day by day."
The rest of the Hawks aren't blind either to what appears to be Quenneville's choice.
"It seems that it's going that way that it's going to be Niemi," Patrick Kane told NHL.com.
Kane was quick to say that he has no idea what Quenneville's final decision will be, and he it doesn't necessarily matter to the rest of the team because they have confidence in both guys.
"As long as we're playing well in front of them and not worried about that too much we should be fine," Kane said. "Obviously it gets talked about a lot and sometimes it's a little unfair. It's tough to put all the pressure on one guy. If I have a bad game, it's like, 'Well, it's OK that he had a bad game.' If they have a bad game it's just so magnified on one person. I think it'll work itself out, too."
Hawks captain Jonathan Toews doesn't view the goalies as being different than decisions Quenneville has to make in regards to forwards or defensemen.
"We understand that the guys that are going are the guys that are going to be playing," Toews said. "We have everyone we need in this locker room and we're going to stick together and get the job done."
That being said, defenseman Brent Seabrook does see value in naming the No. 1.
"I think having a set guy maybe doesn't make you wonder who is going to play before the game," Seabrook told NHL.com, "but we have confidence in both of our goalies and we're going to play hard for both of them. We know they can both do the job."
Quenneville obviously thinks Niemi can do the job better than Huet.
"Antti is coming off a big win and he's going to go again tonight," Quenneville said. "I think we're comfortable in net."