Stroke the Controversy: Antti Niemi to Start In Calgary

After practice on Wednesday, Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville told the media that Antti Niemi will start in Calgary against the struggling Flames.

Cristobal Huet struggled in net on Tuesday night at Ottawa, allowing four goals on only 18 shots. In January, Huet is 4-1-1, but is allowing three goals per game. In his last four starts, Huet has allowed 14 goals; that number is frustratingly high considering a shutout of Columbus is included in that total. Overall this month, Huet has allowed 18 goals on 131 shots (.862 save percentage).

Meanwhile, Niemi is coming off a hard-fought win in Detroit and is 3-1-0 in the month. He has allowed 10 goals on 95 shots (.895 save percentage), which isn’t a great statistic but it’s certainly better than Huet.

What hasn’t helped Huet’s case is that many of the goals he has allowed have appeared to be routine shots, while Niemi has made spectacular saves, including a blocker save of a one-on-none breakaway for Henrik Zetterberg in overtime during Sunday’s win in Detroit. Some Huet apologists will say that Niemi is getting better defense in front of him, but the numbers indicate that Niemi is actually facing two shots per game more than Huet in January.

As the road trip continues, especially as the Hawks travel to Vancouver and San Jose, it will be interesting to see if Quenneville maintains his “rotation” in goal, or if he opts to play the hotter hand against the better teams.

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