With back-to-back games forthcoming this weekend for the Blackhawks, Head Coach Joel Quenneville announced that backup netminder Nikolai Khabibulin will get the nod in net for Friday’s contest against the New York Islanders. The start will be the 40-year-old goaltender’s first regular-season assignment since rejoining the Blackhawks over the summer.
Quenneville says that the veteran’s experience and poise will be valuable for his team, both tomorrow and in the long term.
“We’re happy to get him playing,” 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.”
Khabibulin, who went 4-6-1 with a 2.54 goals-against average in limited time with Edmonton last season, is excited for his chance to finally show what he can do.
“Obviously any athlete wants to play games, and I’m no exception. I want to go out and contribute to the team," he said. "I’m excited for tomorrow. Just about 24 hours to go.”
New look on the bottom six?: Following some in-game shakeups during Wednesday’s 3-2 loss in St. Louis, Coach Q changed his bottom six line combinations during Thursday’s practice even further. The new look saw Marcus Kruger moving to the third line, centering Andrew Shaw and Brandon Saad, while Joakim Nordstrom shifted to the middle of the fourth line between Brandon Bollig and Ben Smith.
Quenneville, however, did not commit to using the new lines during Friday’s matchup, and even hinted that more changes could be coming.
“We tried a few of those [changes] in shifts during [our previous] games,” he said. “It’s just an option we have going forward, and wanted to see how it looked in practice. We’re giving everybody a chance and we’ll see how it works out.”