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Khabibulin back in net as Blackhawks host Islanders

by Adam Kimelman /

ISLANDERS (2-0-1) at BLACKHAWKS (1-1-1)


Season series: The prior time the teams met, they went past regulation twice in a six-day span in the 2011-12 season. The Chicago Blackhawks won 5-4 in a shootout at United Center on Dec. 2, 2011, and on Dec. 8 at Nassau Coliseum, they beat the New York Islanders 3-2 in overtime. Chicago has won three straight against the Islanders, dating to Jan. 9, 2011.

Big story: The Blackhawks have dropped two straight following an opening-night victory after raising their 2013 Stanley Cup banner to the rafters at United Center. They'll try to rebound Friday while giving franchise goalie Corey Crawford the evening off. The Islanders bring a 2-0-1 record to Chicago and are coming off a 6-1 home victory against the Phoenix Coyotes on Tuesday.

Team Scope:

Islanders: Cal Clutterbuck is ready to make his Islanders debut.

Clutterbuck was activated from injured reserve Wednesday, finally healed from the skate cut that has sidelined him since Sept. 18. He skated at practice Thursday on the third line, along with Peter Regin and Brock Nelson. Clutterbuck split turns with Pierre-Marc Bouchard, and coach Jack Capuano said Friday that Clutterbuck will be in the lineup.

Clutterbuck said he didn't enjoy sitting out, but said if he was going to get injured, having it happen in September was for the best.

"Had it been during the regular season I probably would have missed 10 games," he told reporters. "I was fortunate that way. I only missed three games. It was good I got to sit through training camp and watch. It would have been nice to go out there and practice and play and give the system a run-through, but I'm pretty confident in my ability to play the game and understand what they want me to do."

Rookie Brock Nelson is the likeliest candidate to sit. Backup goaltender Kevin Poulin will make his season debut as well. Starter Evgeni Nabokov has played each of the first three games and will be in goal when the Islanders visit the Nashville Predators on Saturday.

Blackhawks: For the first time in four years, Nikolai Khabibulin will be in net for Chicago. Crawford started the team's first three games, but with another game Saturday against the Buffalo Sabres, coach Joel Quenneville opted to give the veteran goaltender his first start for the Blackhawks since May 22, 2009, when he played in Game 4 of the 2009 Western Conference Final.

"We're happy to get him playing," Quenneville told reporters Thursday. "He's going to be a very important part of our team. He gives us experience and it gives him a chance to play. We're happy to play in front of him and we get to see him play here at the United Center and be a part of our team."

Khabibulin said he wasn't planning on celebrating his return to the action in the building he played in from 2005-09, telling reporters his mindset is, "just to get in and get a few shots, get in the rhythm a little bit [and] get used to playing again. I'd like to play well [Friday], but it's more important to get a [win]."

Who's hot: Islanders forward Michael Grabner had the first three-assist game of his NHL career Tuesday against the Coyotes. He leads the team with six points in three games. … Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane has goals in each of his first three games, and going back to last season has a goal in five straight regular-season games.

Injury report: With Clutterbuck's expected return, the Islanders have a healthy lineup. … The Blackhawks also have no injuries to report.


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