This may be the most solid position in Chicago with four-time NHL All-Star Nikolai Khabibulin between the pipes. It’s Khabibulin’s third season in the Windy City after leading the Tampa Bay Lightning to the Stanley Cup in 2004, and this edition will be the best Blackhawks team he’s ever backstopped. Though he’s now 34, Khabibulin remains among the elite goaltenders in the NHL — but he has yet to duplicate his Tampa heroics in Chicago. He has also had a tough time with assorted injuries, which have affected his play.
Khabibulin is capable of winning games by himself; unfortunately, he’s been asked to do that far too often in his first two seasons with the Blackhawks. With young defenders continuing to develop in front of him and a change in the losing culture that’s suffocated the team finally taking place, Khabibulin is the key to a bounce-back season.
Patrick Lalime is a veteran with plenty of big-game experience from his tenure with the Ottawa Senators, and he’ll again be the primary backup when Khabibulin needs a breather. Lalime, 33, was 4-6-1 in 12 games with the Hawks last season, but was re-signed by Chicago to a one-year deal and adds stability.
In the Wings
Corey Crawford -- Drafted in the second round in 2003, the 22-year-old Montreal product has already played in two games with the Hawks, getting a taste of the NHL two years ago. He played in 60 games with Norfolk of the AHL last season, winning 38, and finished his second year of pro hockey with a 2.84 GAA and .909 save-percentage.
Mike Brodeur -- With a name like that, what other position would he play? This 24-year-old was drafted by the Hawks in the seventh round in 2003 and was re-signed this summer as a restricted free agent after another year of splitting time between the AHL and ECHL. He played in 10 games for Norfolk last season, going 4-3 with a 3.39 GAA and an .891 save percentage.
Blackhawks general manager Dale Tallon:
"We're quite happy with the depth in our organization. Khabby had a good year last year. He had a little bit of a slump in the middle part of the year. But the beginning and the end, he was terrific. Patrick Lalime was healthy and played well for us at the end of the year. I think the two of them together, they get along great. I think Patrick will challenge and will be able to give Khabby some needed rest. I think we're quite good there, very solid."
1. In winning 25 games last season, Nikolai Khabibulin eclipsed the 20-win mark for the eighth time in his career.
2. Khabibulin was ranked No. 30 in the NHL last season in both goals-against (2.86) and save-percentage (.902).
3. In 385 career NHL matches, Lalime has won a total of 175 games and holds a 2.51 GAA and .906 save percentage.
NHL.com's 2007-08 Blackhawks Season Preview Package: