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Quenneville to choose between Darling, Raanta

CHICAGO -- Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville prefers not to classify it as a goalie controversy, but he will soon decide which of his backup goaltenders, Scott Darling or Antti Raanta, will stick in the NHL and who will be assigned to the AHL.

“I don’t know if it’s a controversy,” Quenneville said after his team’s practice Wednesday. “I would say it’s an opportunity right now internally where the situation has played out the way it has. Organizationally, we think it’s a healthy position. Like any player or individual, everybody wants to play. Everybody wants to play more. That’s what makes it so competitive in our business.

“It’s something we’ll talk about. I think it’s a good discussion, a lot of positives either way. Probably a lot of variables that will be weighed in on the decision, so we’ll see.”

Blackhawks No. 1 goaltender Corey Crawford practiced again Wednesday and could start against the Ottawa Senators on Thursday, Quenneville said. Crawford has missed the last five games with an upper-body injury. All three goaltenders will travel to Ottawa.

Once Crawford has completely recovered from his recent injury and is ready to play, Quenneville will decide between Darling and Raanta as his backup goaltender. Quenneville said it was “very doubtful” he would keep three goalies.

Raanta won the backup spot out of training camp and started the first three games after Crawford’s injury. Raanta went 1-2-0 with a 2.03 goals-against average and a .933 save percentage in those three games.

Scott Darling, who was recalled after Crawford’s injury, was given his first NHL start Sunday in the second game of a back-to-back. He stopped 32 of 33 shots in a 2-1 win over the Senators in his debut and was rewarded with a second start Tuesday. He made 24 saves on 25 shots in a 1-0 loss to the Anaheim Ducks. He allowed just a shorthanded goal in both games.

“I’ve been very happy with him,” Quenneville said of Darling. “He hasn’t done anything wrong anytime he’s been in the net. It’s been a real positive story for us, very good start for him.”

The Blackhawks can send Darling or Raanta to Rockford IceHogs of the AHL without them having to clear waivers.

Raanta said Wednesday he hadn’t considered whether he might be sent to the AHL. He did think the competition was good for him and the Blackhawks.

“I haven’t [thought] about those things yet,” Raanta said of the AHL. “I just try to do my thing, and we’ll see how far that goes.

“Of course, this is the NHL, so you can’t start thinking too much about yourself. You have to always be on top of your game and like that. It’s a good thing that we have good goalies in the organization, and we have a good competition all the time for the No.1 and No. 2 spots.”