It’s been a long while since we’ve seen Kevin Lankinen getting regular time in the net for the Chicago Blackhawks. Outside of Marc-André Fleury starting every game that is on a day that ends in “y,” Lankinen has been dealing with a hand injury since his last start on January 22 against the Minnesota Wild. Lankinen suffered the injury during that game, but played through and made 40-of-44 saves that night in an overtime loss.
After getting back on the ice this past week, it seems that Lankinen will get back into the lineup for Chicago this weekend:
Derek King said he’s learning towards starting Marc-Andre Fleury on Friday and Kevin Lankinen on Sunday. #Blackhawks
— Charlie Roumeliotis (@CRoumeliotis) February 23, 2022
Lankinen is 2-5-4 this season in 13 appearances for the Blackhawks with a .889 save-percentage and a 3.41 GAA. Lankinen has just five appearances for Chicago since December 1, going 0-2-2 in those games.
Lankinen: "I feel great. I was pumped up to be back around the boys and to see some shots. I'm probably the happiest guy on the team right now."
Honestly, I think that last part is ALWAYS the case. Good to have him back.
— Ben Pope (@BenPopeCST) February 22, 2022
The timing of his return is beneficial both for the Blackhawks and for Lankinen. The go-to guy in net for the Blackhawks this season has been Fleury, but with the NHL Trade Deadline coming up in the next four weeks, Fleury may be on his way out from the Blackhawks, so long as he wants to leave for a Stanley Cup contender. With the high-likelihood that Fleury is moved, Lankinen would become the “starter” for the Blackhawks down the stretch of the season. He would more than likely share the net with rookie Arvid Söderblom and Collin Delia. Only Söderblom has a contract beyond this season with Chicago out of those remaining three goaltenders, so getting starts in the final weeks of the season will be paramount for all three, but specifically Lankinen as he looks get another contract from Chicago.
Fleury is slated to play on Friday night as the Blackhawks host the New Jersey Devils, with Lankinen slated to start on Sunday afternoon against the St. Louis Blues. Friday night’s puck drop is set for 7:30 p.m. CT and Sunday is a 2:00 p.m. CT afternoon puck drop at the United Center.