Khabibulin to start against Islanders
Nikolai Khabibulin will make his Blackhawks re-debut Friday night when he gets the start in goal against the Islanders at the United Center.
It will be Khabibulin’s first game back with the Hawks since Game 3 of the 2009 Western Conference finals against Detroit. He re-signed with them as a free agent last summer for one year at $2 million after spending four years with Edmonton.
Because of the Hawks’ light early-season schedule, Khabibulin hasn’t played in a game this year since Sept. 28 against Washington in the exhibition finale.
“I don’t think it’s the ideal scenario,” Khabibulin said of the near two-week layoff. “You want to kind of get in and feel some pucks and everything, but it is what it is. At the same time we’ve had a lot of practice time so it gives me a chance to work on things.”
Hawks coach Joel Quenneville was looking for a spot to start Khabibulin and this weekend’s back-to-back games provide the opportunity. The Hawks host Buffalo on Saturday.
“We’re happy to get him playing here,” Quenneville said. “I think he’s going to be a very important part of our team. He gives us experience and it gives him a chance to play as well. We’re happy to get to play in front of him and get to see him play here at the United Center.”
Meanwhile, Quenneville tinkered with his third and fourth lines at practice on Thursday, moving Marcus Kruger to center on the third line with Andrew Shaw and Brandon Saad.
The fourth line had Joakim Nordstrom centering for Brandon Bollig and Ben Smith.