CHICAGO – One of the great characteristics of this Blackhawks’ team is the depth and experience which they have at the goalie position.
Corey Crawford had his struggles at the end of December, but he’s still delivered as he had at times, just as he’s during his career in Chicago. Robin Lehner’s addition has brought a major boost to the team, and his ability to keep the team in games has kept the Blackhawks within reasonable striking distance for a playoff berth.
But with the latter out of the lineup with a right knee issue and not yet on Injured Reserve, this group of two will become three for a bit of time. It’s provided quite an opportunity it could be for one of the Blackhawks’ young and rising goalies.
Kevin Lankinen, who signed an entry-level deal with the franchise back in 2018, was called up as the emergency goaltender for the team’s game against the Red Wings on Sunday. With Lehner’s status still “day-to-day,” it’s not yet known how long the goalie will remain with the team.
But it’s safe to say Lankinen is embracing the moment however long it lasts.
“I’m happy to be here. This is where I want to be,” said Lankinen on Sunday. “That’s my goal, to be here, and I’m happy to help the team any way I can. “
He didn’t get that shot on Sunday night, as Crawford played the entire way in a 4-2 comeback win over the Red Wings at the United Center. If Lehner should be out long, Lankinen most likely would find his way into the lineup at some point in the near future.
It’s a major moment for the 24-year-old native of Finland who’s enjoyed quite an eventful year. After making his way up from the ECHL’s Indy Fuel to the AHL’s Rockford IceHogs last spring, Lankinen helped his native country to gold in the IIHF World Championship, allowing a tournament-low 1.50 goals per game.
During this season in Rockford, Lankinen earned a spot in the AHL All-Star game after posting a 7-7 record with a 3.17 goals-against average.
“We’ve been doing a really good job with the goalie coach there, Peter Aubry. I’ve been there for over a year now. So I feel pretty comfortable in the net,” said Lankinen. “Just coming up from training camp I feel really good.”
Head coach Jeremy Colliton has taken notice as he’s made his way up to the parent club.
“He’s had a great first half. Started in the spring with the World Championships, he played really well. I thought he had a good camp and he’s been excellent in Rockford. He made the All-Star Game, so it’s nice to see him get rewarded.”
But Lankinen will have to wait for his turn in net while also getting a few pointers from Crawford as he stay in Chicago is a few days or weeks.
“I try to learn as much as I can every single day and as a person, it’s just such a great goalie tandem to be,” said Lankinen of Crawford. “He’s laid back, he likes to chat, he likes to share his knowledge, too, so that’s huge for me.”