Chicago Blackhawks rookie goaltender Scott Darling will start his fourth consecutive game and get the nod for Game 6 against the Nashville Predators in the Western Conference first-round series, Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville announced Friday.
The Blackhawks lead the Predators 3-2 in the series. Game 6 will be in Chicago on Saturday.
"Scott Darling is going," Quenneville said on a conference call on Friday afternoon. "He's played well in the series. You look at the four games he's been in, he's been solid and very happy with the way he's played, so he's going tomorrow."
Whether Darling would start Game 6 came into question after he allowed four goals on 28 shots in the Blackhawks' 5-2 loss to the Predators in Game 5 on Thursday. He had allowed just four goals on 131 shots in four appearances in the series prior to Thursday. Quenneville waited until Friday to name his Game 6 starter.
Darling replaced Corey Crawford as the team's starting goalie after Crawford gave up three goals on 12 shots in the first period in Game 1 and six goals on 35 shots in Game 2. Crawford was 32-20-5 with a 2.27 goals-against average and .924 save percentage during the regular season. He had started 57 consecutive playoff games for the Blackhawks prior to being benched for Game 3.
Quenneville expressed a continued confidence in Darling.
"He's played some games where he didn't win in the past, and he's let a bad goal in the past as well," Quenneville said. "Maybe look at the four games, he's maybe let in one ordinary goal go in. Beside that, consistently square, you got to look at his positioning, confidence. He's done everything right. Commend him on that."
Darling also looked to move on quickly from his performance after Game 5.
"You know you lose games sometimes, just get ready for the next game," Darling said Thursday night.
Darling, 26, signed a one-year deal with the Blackhawks last offseason. He was up and down between the AHL and NHL throughout the season. He was 9-4-0 with a 1.95 goals-against average and .936 save percentage in the regular season for the Blackhawks. He agreed a two-year contract extension in February.
Quenneville wouldn't speculate about whether he would remain with Darling if the Predators forced a Game 7, which would be Monday.
"[Darling's] playing tomorrow," Quenneville said Friday. "We're only thinking about tomorrow's game. That's what it's all about. We got to play tomorrow's game. We have to win tomorrow's game. That's what we're all about."