Analyst: Niemi the main man for Hawks

Updated: February 16, 2010, 9:48 AM ET
ESPNChicago.com

As the Hawks break for the Olympics, the debate about who will be in goal for the playoffs has become a topic of conversation.

Hockey analyst Steve Konroyd, speaking on ESPN 1000's "Afternoon Saloon" on Monday, said goaltender Antti Niemi seems to be the preferred choice for coach Joel Quenneville. Niemi backstopped the Hawks to consecutive 5-4 shootout wins over the weekend. Niemi has also started the past four games, including the weekend's tough night/day turnaround, when the Hawks played the Thrashers Saturday night, then played Columbus Sunday afternoon.

"I think right now, you'd have to consider that he's the No. 1 guy," Konroyd said. "He's got better numbers than Cristobal Huet right now, and even though his goals against average has been climbing up a little bit, he's still making important saves at important times. I think that was probably the biggest knock against Cristobal. He was giving up goals at really inopportune times, and that can really hurt a team. It sinks your morale and guys tend to get down a little bit. Even though Niemi allowed one in the power play to have Columbus tie the game in the third period, he still had an outstanding third period. I think right now, he's your No. 1 guy.

"Now, if he comes back from the break, and he doesn't play well against the Islanders, I don't think Joel will hesitate one bit to throw Huet back in there and try to get him back on his game."

Konroyd also said it would be tough for the Hawks to trade for a goaltender, even if they wanted to do so.

"It's going to be tough," Konroyd said. "I'm sure [the Blackhawks] are right up against the cap right now and let's say you wanted to bring in a Tim Thomas or a Marty Turco, two names that I've heard -- there's no room, there's absolutely no room, unless you shed $4 or $5 million, and that would mean giving up a Patrick Sharp."

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