Hawks' Huet ready for first real test

Randy Sportak, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:10 PM ET

CHICAGO — Cristobal Huet came to Chicago expecting to be “The guy” when the playoffs rolled around.

It just hasn’t happened to come around the way he planned.

Signed last summer to a four-year contract worth US$22.5 million, Huet was pegged to be between the pipes at this time because Nikolai Khabibulin and his high-priced deal were to be long gone.

Instead, the Hawks couldn’t move Khabibulin — not even via waivers — and eventually the netminder expected to be elsewhere reclaimed the No.-1 job in the Windy City.

However, with Khabibulin nursing an injury that knocked him out of Game 3 of the Western Conference final series, Huet is staring at the chance he wanted.

However, he wouldn’t be coming off the bench if he starts Sunday’s clash, unlike his six-save relief appearance in Friday’s 4-3 overtime win.

“I wasn’t really tested the whole game, I thought we did a good job. Really, my test is going to be (Sunday),” he said.

It wasn’t the situation Huet expected when he joined the Blackhawks from the Washington Capitals, but he insisted it wasn’t too frustrating to be relegated to back-up duty.

“We worked very well all season long,” he said. “He got the call at the end of the season, but he was playing so well, it’s tough to argue. I just stayed patient, worked hard for an opportunity like this.”

The Hawks are likely also going to be without star forward Martin Havlat, who was knocked from last game by a hard check from Nicklas Kronwall.

Then again, the Red Wings aren’t expected to have forwards Kris Draper (groin) and Pavel Datsyuk (foot) in their lineup.

Draper is out, while Datsyuk is listed as “day-to-day” by Wings coach Mike Babcock.

“I noticed his stuff was hanging up. They’re hoping they can get him in his boot and get him going,” Babcock said.

Somewhat lost in the uproar of Kronwall’s hit on Havlat, is the fact the Blackhawks win gave new life to the series Detroit now leads two-games-to-one.

While the Blackhawks will look to pull even in the raucous United Center, the Wings will try to ensure their hosts don’t build on having new life and confidence.

“If they’re gaining confidence, good for them,” Wings defenceman Brad Stuart said. “But I don’t think we’re concerned with that. We’ve got to be concerned with how we have to play to win. We know how that is and it’s better at executing from the start.

“Part of the reason we’ve been successful is we know it’s one loss. That’s just all it is. We don’t dwell on it too much or let that creep into our game, that negative mindset. We’ve been pretty good at leaving the past in the past and moving on to the next game.”

A next game in which Huet may have to do the job, and show why he was given that lucrative contract.

He has to bring his gear up to speed in a hurry after spending six weeks seeing action only in practice.

“Games are different, you know. There’s tons of traffic, especially against those guys. They have skills, they can make plays around the net,” he said. “There’s tons of challenges for a goalie and defence. It’s a matter of staying focused and doing what you do in practice.”

randy.sportak@sunmedia.ca


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