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Khudobin comes close to letter-perfect in victory // Minneapolis Star Tribune
By MICHAEL RUSSO, Star Tribune
The "K" is silent.
Five years after being drafted by the Wild, Anton Khudobin revealed during last September's training camp that his last name is actually pronounced "Who-Dobin."
That's fitting, of course, because for five years many wondered who this unorthodox-looking goalie advancing through the system actually was.
It's "Who?" no more.
Saturday night, in his first career start one game after his first career victory, the bubbly goalie from Magnitogorsk of the Russian Elite League who hails from Ust-Kamenogorsk, Kazakhstan, lifted the Wild to a 2-1 victory over the big, bad Philadelphia Flyers.
"He couldn't sit on the edge of the pool and dip his toe in," Wild coach Todd Richards said. "He had to jump right in. He was excellent."
Khudobin made 38 saves, Cal Clutterbuck and Owen Nolan scored goals and the Wild extended its home point streak to nine games, moving it four points back of eighth-place Nashville.
"Of course [I was nervous]. It was my first start," said Khudobin, 23, who beat Edmonton with nine saves in 9 1/2 minutes of work in place of injured Josh Harding in his NHL debut Thursday. "You're in front of your fans, 18,000, screaming. I said, 'OK, just stop the first shot, the second shot, the third shot.' "
He was especially solid in the opening period when the Wild gave up a plethora of good chances. Minnesota surrendered 17 shots in the period, the most it's given up in an opening period at home this year.
Clutterbuck and Dan Carcillo exchanged goals 16 seconds apart, and the Wild rebounded during a one-sided middle frame.
"The way we played in the first period, we probably haven't played that poor of a period in a long, long time," Richards said.
Nolan scored his 14th goal 8:12 into the period 13 seconds after a Braydon Coburn minor penalty expired. Kim Johnsson made a nice play in the neutral zone to get the puck up to Nolan, who fed it to Eric Belanger at the blue line -- an entry play Richards has ingrained into the Wild's collective head all season.
Belanger put the puck on net and, as they say, the rebound is the best pass in hockey. Philadelphia goalie Michael Leighton, playing in place of injured Ray Emery, couldn't handle Belanger's shot and Nolan popped in the rebound.
"That's a stupid goal," Leighton said. "Unacceptable. I can't give up goals like that in the NHL."
The Wild generated several chances the rest of the period, outshooting Philadelphia 14-5 at one point. Late in the period, the action picked up after a collision between Nolan and Scott Hartnell.
The two clashed, and Nolan beat the Marilyn Manson hairdo off Hartnell. It wasn't pretty, yet somehow the referees gave Nolan and Hartnell matching roughing minors instead of fighting majors.
"I don't know what happened there. My hands are sore enough for it to be a fighting," Nolan said.
Nolan also was surprised he didn't get an assist on Clutterbuck's first-period goal. Nolan kicked the puck to the slot, but as Leighton tried to scramble back to his net, he helped the puck along to Clutterbuck for his 11th goal (tying his rookie goal mark).
"Stubborn tonight, I guess," Nolan said.
Khudobin was in awe of the hard-nosed job offered by Nolan, the 18-year veteran and 420-goal scorer.
"Last year I couldn't believe I could play with him on the same team,"
said Khudobin, 23. "I saw him on TV when I was young, like 10 years old,
13 years old. This is an unbelievable player. He plays so hard, no matter