WINNIPEG, Manitoba — Michael Leighton’s first NHL game was more than 13 years ago. But the thought of being back in an NHL dressing room had him feeling like a rookie again.
“It’s real exciting,” Leighton said after Friday’s morning skate in Winnipeg. “It’s been a while. When I got the call, I was actually a little nervous and had some butterflies in my stomach. It’s good to be back in the NHL, and I’m definitely happy to be here.”
Leighton was recalled on Thursday because Corey Crawford is out with an upper-body injury. Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville declined to go into specifics, but said it was an on-ice injury. He wouldn’t rule out Crawford for Sunday’s home game against Minnesota, simply saying, “We’ll see.”
Leighton’s stay probably will be short, but he could be back soon. The Hawks typically carry three goalies during the postseason. Last year, Antti Raanta was frustrated by being the No. 3 goalie, because he wanted to stay in Rockford and play in the IceHogs’ playoff run. Leighton is torn on the issue, but sounded like he’d also prefer to stay in Rockford instead of being a Black Ace.
Leighton hasn’t been a regular in the NHL since giving up the Stanley Cup-winning goal to Patrick Kane in 2010. He played one game each for the Flyers in 2010-11 and 2013.
“It’s kind of a toss-up,” he said. “Obviously you want to play hockey, right? I don’t know. It’s really a tough decision. Obviously, you want to be in the NHL, you want to be a part of it. But you also want to keep playing, too. So if they kept me down there to play, at least I’m playing, and if there’s an injury up here, I can go up — I’m fresh, I’ve been playing games, right? It might be better than sitting here and not playing and barely practicing. On the other hand, you’re in the NHL, you get to travel with the team and experience a once-in-a-lifetime thing if we win. It’s a tough call. I don’t know what they’re going to do yet, but either way I’ll embrace what they want me to do and look forward to getting into playoff hockey either way.”
The 34-year-old Leighton is 28-8-8 with a .918 save percentage and a 2.44 goals-against average with the IceHogs this season. He also broke the AHL record with his 46th career shutout. He has played 105 NHL games for the Hawks, Predators, Flyers, and Hurricanes.
“I signed here as a third goalie,” Leighton said. “That was the mindset. I enjoyed my time in Rockford last year, they’ve got a great organization down there. I knew what I was getting into when I signed it. I was just kind of an emergency guy in case something happens, or a trade, or whatever. It’s been going the way I expected it to.”
NOTES: Teuvo Teravainen is questionable for Friday night’s game with an illness he’s been battling for a few days now. Erik Gustafsson is back on the blue line, with Christian Ehrhoff a scratch. Brandon Mashinter is likely a healthy scratch up front, with Dennis Rasmussen (assuming Teravainen is out) and Richard Panik back in the lineup.
Flyers forward Chris VandeVelde was suspended two games for his elbow to the head of Jonathan Toews on Wednesday night.