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|Hawks not giving up on struggling Khabibulin yet
31.10.2014. Sassone, Tim. Daily Herald
While it's still too early to consider the signing of 40-year-old goalie Nikolai Khabibulin to be a $2 million mistake by general manager Stan Bowman, there is cause for concern in the Blackhawks' camp after a second straight poor outing by the veteran.
Khabibulin was pulled midway through Tuesday's 6-5 win over Ottawa after allowing 4 goals on 22 shots. That was after he gave up 6 goals in a 6-5 loss in overtime at Tampa Bay last week.
Khabibulin's numbers are not so hot after three games: 4.74 goals-against average and .818 save percentage. He has surrendered 12 goals on 66 shots.
While fans are clamoring for Antti Raanta to be recalled from Rockford, Hawks coach Joel Quenneville likely will give Khabibulin a chance to redeem himself.
"We'll see, we've got a few days off here," Quenneville said after the game on Tuesday. "Let's get back from the day off and visit with it."
Jonathan Toews, who bailed out Khabibulin big time with a hat trick in Tuesday's come-from-behind win, said it was unfair to blame the goalie.
"Regardless of who's starting for us, we have to have a better start and be a little more supportive," Toews said.
Win is relief:
Corey Crawford stepped in for Nikolai Khabibulin on Tuesday and was tested right away by Jason Spezza on a short-handed breakaway with the Hawks trailing 4-3.
"He's pretty shifty and has a long reach too," Crawford said. "In the back of my mind he's a guy who goes high glove a lot, but you have to be patient and not think too much. I just waited for him to make the first move.
"Coming in you just want to make the first save and build off that. That's all I was thinking about."
Crawford wound up making 14 saves on 15 shots. After stopping Spezza, he had the presence of mind to swipe the rebound into the corner.
"I saw the rebound pop up and there was a guy rushing for it so I was just able to get my stick on it and poke it away," Crawford said.
"He was great," Joel Quenneville said. "After we put him in there they had a couple quality chances that he responded to. I don't even know if we pulled the goalie last year. Coming in that situation he was remarkable."
For the record, Quenneville changed goalies four times last season in 48 regular-season games.
Blue line help:
The Hawks got 4 assists from defensemen Tuesday, including key set-ups from Johnny Oduya and Brent Seabrook on the tying and go-ahead goals from Jonathan Toews.
"Our defense is a big part of our offense," Joel Quenneville said. "You saw a lot of attack off the rush, a lot of delay plays, a lot of guys walking down the slot with good looks. We encourage that.
"I thought Johnny (Oduya) made a heck of a play there to (Toews). Better offense from the back end is something we feel is important to scoring goals in today's game."