From 2005-09, goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin defended the Blackhawks' net, going 90-80-24 with a 2.81 goals-against average, while also helping the Blackhawks reach the 2009 Western Conference Final against Detroit. After four seasons with the Edmonton Oilers, Khabibulin returned to Chicago on July 1, signing a one-year contract to back up Corey Crawford for the 2013-14 campaign.
chicagoblackhawks.com spoke with the veteran netminder about coming back for a second tour of duty with Chicago, Corey Crawford and his workout regimen.
How does it feel to be back in a Blackhawks uniform?
It’s awesome. I’m happy to be back. I’m very familiar with the organization, and there are a lot of guys that I played with. It feels like I haven’t missed much.
Did you follow the Blackhawks during your time in Edmonton at all?
When I went away, there were always still guys who played with here, and I liked the guys here. Obviously, they did quite well.
Did you keep in touch with any of them?
We didn’t really keep in touch, but when we played against each other, I would always say hello and talk to them. We were always friendly, so it was always a good meeting.
When did you first know the Blackhawks were interested in bringing you back?
My agent got the call, and it was kind of a bang-bang thing. It was a good place to go – it was only a matter of a few hours to make my decision. I think [my familiarity] with the organization was a big reason – knowing half the team and having the same coach, trainers and management. You go to a new organization, but this was more comfortable.
You knew Corey Crawford as a prospect the last time you were here – what’s your impression of him since he’s come up full-time?
I think he developed into a really good goalie. Just watching the playoffs, whether things were going well or not, he handled it really well. He’s really good technically and really quick, all of the things that make a good goalie. I think he’s got a good head on his shoulders. He controls himself really well. He seems to be staying pretty even, which is very important because the whole team is looking at you. If they see that instability, you don’t know which way it’s going to go.
Has Joel Quenneville talked to you about the kind of workload he expects to give you this season?
Not really, no. He’s the coach, so he decides who to play when. I’m here to contribute as much as I can, and whenever I get to play, I’ll play the best I can. That’s the mindset.
Patrick Kane said you were in the best shape of any 40-year-old he’s ever seen. Do you feel like you’re in top shape?
Well, I don’t know how many 40-year-olds he’s seen… if he’s only seen one, that makes sense. That would explain a lot [laughing]. I’m trying to always prepare as much as I can. That’s something I think is very helpful with the game being younger and more physical; there’s more endurance and athleticism involved. If I don’t keep doing this, there are a bunch of young guys behind me who will kick me out of the league. I have to do it, and I actually like to do it.
How have your workout routines changed?
You’re always trying to find an edge and tweak things, trying to be more functional and efficient with the things I do. It’s not necessarily lifting the biggest weights, but it’s doing the things you actually do. Instead of being strong, I try to see what can I apply to the ice, and try to create exercises that work for hockey players.