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Anton Forsberg, J-F Berube could be battling for Blackhawks’ backup job

J-F Berube made his second start of the season Thursday night in San Jose. (Getty Images)

SAN JOSE, Calif. — With Corey Crawford possibly returning to the ice next week, and general manager Stan Bowman saying he fully expects Crawford to play again, the question of who the Blackhawks’ No. 1 goaltender is next season is not up for debate.

But who will be his backup?

Bowman anointed Anton Forsberg the Hawks’ No. 2 goalie immediately upon acquiring him in the Artemi Panarin trade last spring. But Forsberg has had a pedestrian season, posting a .909 save percentage and going 7-13-3, unable to fully seize the net from journeymen Jeff Glass and J-F Berube. And the Hawks are going to give Berube a good look in the final five weeks of the season.

It’s telling that Berube is getting two of three starts on this California swing.

“Decisions like that, you’ll visit with them at the end of the year,” Joel Quenneville said. “You’ll accumulate all the information based on what went on this year, and assess everything. So we’ll see how that works itself out.”

Berube stopped 42 of 43 shots against the Sharks in his first start of the season on Feb. 23, and got another crack at them Thursday night. And while he didn’t say he’s outright gunning for Forsberg’s job, anyone in his position would be.

“I’m just coming here and trying to do my best and help the team get some points,” Berube said.

It’s not that far-fetched. Forsberg is 25 and signed through next season, Berube is 26 and signed through next season. Forsberg has 36 NHL games under his belt, Berube played his 24th on Thursday. Forsberg has a $750,000 cap hit, Berube has a $700,000 cap hit. If he out-performs Forsberg down the stretch, the job could be his in October.

“An opportunity sometimes changes, gets enhanced, and all of a sudden you can get the net for a while and prove you’re capable of sustaining it,” Quenneville said. “Every goalie would love to have that opportunity.”

Gaming the system

The Hawks only have one regular recall left this season. Each team is allowed four recalls after the trade deadline, and the Hawks used three of them on “paper transactions,” assigning Berube, David Kampf and Carl Dahlstrom to Rockford on Monday so they’d be eligible for the AHL playoffs, before immediately recalling them. That means John Hayden, Gustav Forsling and other IceHogs might not see the NHL again this season.

The Hawks are allowed emergency recalls, however, which is why they’re carrying the minimum of 21 players (one extra defenseman, no extra forwards). If there’s an injury, the Hawks will be allowed to recall a player without it counting against the four.

Roster report

Defenseman Jan Rutta (lower body) was the lone scratch. He missed the morning skate, and Joel Quenneville said he’s day-to-day.

Follow me on Twitter @MarkLazerus

Email: mlazerus@suntimes.com

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