Life as a backup goaltender can be difficult.
The job entails being prepared at all times and performing at a high level when your number is called despite going sometimes weeks without seeing any action.
With Corey Crawford backing up Team Canada at the World Cup of Hockey, Scott Darling is getting the No. 1 reps in the crease for the Blackhawks.
And he's taking full advantage of that.
"Yeah, obviously I miss Corey, but it's fun to be the guy right now," Darling said following a 2-0 loss in Wednesday's preseason opener to the Pittsburgh Penguins. "I'll take any starts I can get. I don't care if it's regular season or preseason, I just want to play as much as I can. It was nice to get the first game under my belt."
After facing just three shots in the first period, Darling stayed on his toes by denying all 23 shots he saw in the second period — a handful of them on the penalty kill.
"I definitely don't like sitting there," Darling said of the first period. "I don't think they had a shot for about 12 minutes, but you've got to learn how to play in those situations too. It's nice to get some game feels."
Darling finished with 33 saves overall in the Blackhawks' loss and was sharp in the first dress rehearsal of the year as both goals were out of his control — a redirect on the power play and a rebound tap-in at the doorstep, both by Chris Kunitz.
Credit his strong play to working hard in the offseason and maximizing on the opportunity he's been given.
"Darling certainly was a standout, not only when we got a little bit overwhelmed in the second period, but really throughout the game," Blackhawks assistant coach Kevin Dineen said. "He was certainly a positive, which we always expect out of him but I think it's a testament to the way he prepared himself this summer and I think it certainly showed tonight."
Darling doesn't get many chances to anchor the blue paint on a nightly basis.
He started in 24 games last season, 11 of which came during the final portion of the season in March and April when Crawford was dealing with an upper-body injury.
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Darling said that stretch was "probably the best I've ever felt" because you know you're the guy, which eliminates the stress factor of turning in a great performance to earn your next start.
He finished the 2015-16 campaign with a 12-8-4 record, 2.58 goals against average and .915 save percentage, including one shutout.
Not bad, not great.
This season is a chance to prove he can continue to be a consistent and reliable goaltender in any situation, and when the 27-year-old Lemont native gets the opportunity to represent the team he grew up rooting for — something he never loses sight of — Darling expects to be on top of his game when called upon.
"I'm seriously excited to be on the Chicago Blackhawks still," he said. "I just want to play the best I can when they give me a chance to play."