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Niemi gets win in first NHL start

(AP) — Antti Niemi made 22 saves to earn the win in his first National Hockey League start, leading the Chicago Blackhawks to a 4-2 win over Los Angeles Kings at the United Center in Chicago on Sunday afternoon.

Niemi, in his first North American season, is 13-12-3 with a 2.41 goals-against average and a .911 save percentage in 30 AHL appearances for the Rockford IceHogs in 2008-09. He made his NHL debut on Friday, when he relieved Cristobal Huet to start the third period of an overtime loss to Pittsburgh.

“We wanted to play hard for Antti in his first start,” said defenseman Duncan Keith. “We tried to limit their good scoring chances as much as we could; they still got some looks at the net, but he was there. I think he’ll be good for us.”

With Chicago nursing a 3-2 lead, Niemi made a handful of tough saves in the scoreless second period and through the third as the Blackhawks held on for the win.

“It was nice to see Niemi get a win in his first start,” head coach Joel Quenneville said. “It’s probably a little nerve-wracking to get the opportunity, but I like how he settled down as the game progressed.”