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Khabibulin, Huet make a solid pair; Chicago's Goalies; 'They're supportive of each other' // CanWest Interactive
The Bulin Wall is showing no signs of crumbling. Even at the semi-advanced age of 36, Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin figures he could handle the workload of his Calgary Flames counterpart Miikka Kiprusoff, who has played 47 of his team's 50 games this season.
"I know I can do that," said Khabibulin, who will get the start tonight against the Flames at Pengrowth Saddledome. "But you just have to make the best of the situation."
The situation in Chicago -- some outsiders call it a problem or dilemma -- has Khabibulin sharing the goaltending duties with Cristobal Huet.
Huet's stats are certainly decent. In 25 games, the former Montreal Canadiens netminder has . a 917 save percentage . and 2.32 goals-against average.
Through 26 games, Khabibulin has a .925 save percentage and a GAA of 2.34.
Combined, the Hawks are rolling toward the playoffs with a record of 28-13-8.
"I see them every night," Hawks centre David Bolland raved. "I see them every night. Being in front of them is amazing. It's unbelievable.
"Every night, we have a really good goalie in net. Every night, we have a chance."
Four months back, the chances of Huet and Khabibulin peacefully co-existing in net seemed slim. Now, the Blackhawks might wonder how they could get by without both.
"Practising against them is tough," Bolland said. "It gets frustrating. Sometimes, they stand on their heads at practice. Sometimes, they're just standing there and they're still blocking shots."
Whether standing on their heads or skates, Huet and Khabibulin receive handsome compensation for their work.
Khabibulin is earning US$6.75-million this year in the final year of his deal signed in 2005. Huet lags behind at US$5.625-million in the first year of a four-year free-agent contract he signed in the offseason.
With US$12-million invested in goalies, most hockey pundits figured the Windy City marriage would not survive.
More than halfway through the season, though, there's no sign of divorce yet.
"It's been working well for us" Huet said. "We want to play more. Both of us. But I think, in a certain way, it keeps us fresh."
Coach Joel Quenneville, who took over five games into the season, initially planned on choosing one of his big-ticket netminders as the undisputed starter.
As it turns out, both have taken turns looking immortal.
"You've got to commend both guys," Quenneville said. "They're both deserving of playing on a regular basis or a more steady diet of games.
"They end up pushing one another. They're supportive of each other as well."
Centre Patrick Sharp is supportive of any plan that allows for two world-class goalies on one team. Especially if it's his team.
"To me, the organization looks pretty good," he said. "Every night, we get a strong goaltending performance. As a team, we don't concern ourselves with who is in net. We just know that whoever is in there is going to play well for us."
At some point, Quenneville might tap Huet or Khabibulin as the starter for the stretch run to the playoffs.
"We told them, as we go along here, that maybe it will become clear," Quenneville said. "One guy might emerge as the guy. It's not clear."