Chicago Blackhawks

Hawks sign Finnish goaltender

CHICAGO – He plays goaltender. His first name is Antti. He is from Finland.

No wonder the Blackhawks wanted so badly to sign this guy.

Three seasons after Antti Niemi helped the organization win a Stanley Cup, the Hawks signed Finnish goaltender Antti Raanta to a one-year contract. Several other NHL teams, including the Minnesota Wild and Edmonton Oilers, reportedly also had pursued signing Raanta, 24, to a deal.

Although the Hawks’ transaction will have no effect on the rest of the postseason, the addition of Raanta could play a big role in terms of next season’s roster. Corey Crawford has one season remaining on his three-year contract, while veteran backup Ray Emery is due to become an unrestricted free agent this summer.

It’s possible Raanta could step in next season for Emery, who thrived with a 17-1-0 record and a 1.94 goals-against average during the regular season but battled injuries late in the year. Emery could seek a starting role elsewhere and command a salary beyond the Hawks’ budget.

Raanta most recently played for Assat Pori in Finland, where he was named the most valuable player of the regular season and the playoffs. He posted a 21-10-11 record this season with five shutouts, a 1.85 goals-against average and a .943 save percentage in 45 appearances.

In five seasons as a professional, Raanta (6-0, 182 pounds) has a record of 48-27-16.

Hit parade: Neither the Hawks nor the Los Angeles Kings has been shy when it comes to delivering hits during the Western Conference finals.

In the first two games of the series, the teams have combined for a whopping 164 hits, including 90 for the Kings.

Four players have tallied double-digit hits in the first two games of the series. Brent Seabrook and Andrew Shaw have 10 hits apiece for the Hawks, while Dustin Brown and Kyle Clifford have notched 10 hits apiece for the Kings. Other leaders include forwards Bryan Bickell of the Hawks and Dustin Penner of the Kings, each of whom have nine hits entering Game 3.

One of the guys: Crawford proved he was willing to defend more than the Hawks’ net when he left the crease and pulled the Kings’ Clifford off Hawks captain Jonathan Toews in Game 2.

Crawford – who later explained, “I just decided to go in there and grab his head” – was not penalized on the play. He received two penalties during the regular season, including one for tripping against Colorado and one for interference against Vancouver.

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