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Hawks' Jaxson Stauber soaking up emergency call-up to NHL

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The Blackhawks have been decimated with injuries this season, and perhaps no position has had its depth tested more than the goaltending.

Four goaltenders have appeared in NHL games for the Blackhawks through 26 games this season: Petr Mrazek, Arvid Soderblom, Alex Stalock and Dylan Wells. Jaxson Stauber nearly became the fifth.

On Tuesday in New Jersey, Soderblom got poked in the eye in the third period after Tomar Tatar's stick literally went inside the eye hole of the mask. Soderblom threw his helmet off and was in immediate pain.

In a matter of seconds, Stauber went and grabbed his goalie mask, put it on and was preparing to enter in relief. Fortunately for Soderblom, he ended up staying in the game after needing a few moments to regather himself, dodging a major bullet.

Stauber has never appeared in an NHL game and he claims his emotions weren't going crazy at that moment. But they probably would have if he had to actually go into the game.

"Honestly, it happened so fast that you don't really have any time to think about it," Stauber said. "It was just like, get yourself ready, get your helmet on and get yourself stretched out a little bit and get ready. So yeah, I wasn't really feeling anything, but I'm sure once I stepped on that ice it probably would've been a little bit of nerves for sure, but it's a good thing."

Earlier in the season, Mrazek and Stalock were each out with respective injuries, and at the same time, so was Stauber, who had an eye injury after a shot he faced in a game with Rockford got stuck into his mask and nearly caught his eye. It was so close to being a potentially disastrous situation, similar to Soderblom's.

"It was honestly, more than anything, just a bit of a shocking situation," Stauber said. "The puck kind of got lodged inside the mask and caught me a little bit above the eye, but there was just a little bit of swelling. More than anything, I think it was just a bit of a shock to have a puck come that close to being right in your eye. It was a quick process but it feels good to be back."

On the first go-around in November, Stauber was supposed to be Chicago's call-up to serve as Soderblom's backup with Mrazek and Stalock out. He was next in line.

But because he wasn't available, the Blackhawks had to sign Wells, the organization's fifth-string goaltender, to an NHL contract. It didn’t exactly bother Stauber, who knew it was beyond his control. It was just unfortunate timing.

"It's about opportunity and timing," Stauber said. "But just knowing that I feel that I'll get my opportunities and those things will come, so you've just got to stay patient and keep working and take it one day at a time and focus on things you can control."

Even though Stauber likely won't start a game with the Blackhawks this season, just being around the guys and getting a taste of the NHL lifestyle is an invaluable experience. 

It also doesn't sound like a huge deal, but getting an NHL paycheck is probably nice, too, for the time being. His annual AHL salary is $80,000 and his annual base NHL salary is $750,000. That difference is life-changing money.

At the beginning of the season, Stauber was the backup goaltender for Rockford. Last season he was wrapping up his final year at Providence College. Less than a year later, he's taking pucks from Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews in practice.

It's surely been a pinch-me kind of moment for Stauber, although he's doing a good job of not showing it.

"Those are guys you grow up watching," Stauber said. "It's really special to play with guys like that. They've been really welcoming and great to be around, so it's been awesome.

"It's been really exciting. It's obviously a lot of fun to be here and be around the guys and be in this environment. It's a lot of excitement just trying to take it all in and learn as much as I can."

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