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San Jose Sharks vs. Chicago Blackhawks

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GAME: San Jose Sharks (0-1-0) at Chicago Blackhawks (0-1-0).

TIME: Friday, 8:30 p.m. EDT.

Nikolai Khabibulin fell short of expectations in his debut for the Chicago Blackhawks.

The newly-acquirred goaltender looks to rebound for the Blackhawks when they host the San Jose Sharks.

Chicago took advantage of the league's new financial structure by snaring Khabibulin, the highest profile free agent goalie this summer after helping Tampa Bay win the Stanley Cup in 2003-04.

The Blackhawks signed the four-time All-Star to a four-year, $27 million contract, the richest in franchise history, in hopes of turning one of the worst teams in the league in recent years into instant contenders.

Howerver, the 32-year-old Khabibulin struggled Wednesday, allowing five goals on 24 shots as Chicago lost its season opener 5-3 to Anaheim. The Mighty Ducks scored on two power plays, and twice more short handed as Khabibulin faltered in front of the home fans in the first of a three-game homestand.

"I have to do a better job of controlling (the puck)," he said. "I really wanted to do well. Home openers are usually a tough game to play."

Rookie Rene Bourque scored in his first NHL game, while Mark Bell and Curtis Brown added goals for the Blackhawks, who converted one of nine power-play chances.

"It's one game," Chicago coach Trent Yawney said. "I'm not going to sit there and beat the team down after one game. The start was excellent. When we played 5-on-5 hockey, we were very, very good."

San Jose lost its season opener 3-2 Wednesday to Nashville. Nils Ekman and Patrick Marleau scored for San Jose, which couldn't hold a 2-1 lead in the third period.

The Sharks have 20 players back from a roster that reached the 2004 Western Conference finals, but San Jose coach Ron Wilson wasn't happy with how they lost nearly 70 percent of the faceoffs or how they skated.

"We made some critical errors, mental blunders and in the third they took advantage and that's why we lost," Wilson said.

STANDINGS (through Oct. 5): Sharks - 0 points, 3rd place (tied), 2 PB, Pacific Division. Blackhawks - 0 points, 3rd place (tied), 2 PB, Central Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Sharks - Marleau and Ekman, 1 goals; Milan Michalek, 1 assists; Marleau, Ekman and Michalek, 1 points; Ryane Clowe, Kyle McLaren and Scott Hannan, 2 PIM. Blackhawks - Brown, Bell and Bourque, 1 goals; Kyle Calder, 2 assists; Brown and Calder, 2 points; Todd Simpson, 5 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through Oct. 5): Sharks - Power play: 0 percent (0 for 6), 21st (tied) in NHL. Penalty killing: 100 percent (3 for 3), 1st (tied). Blackhawks - Power play: 11.1 percent (1 for 9), 17th. Penalty killing: 77.7 percent (7 for 9), 24th.

GOALTENDERS: Sharks - Evgeni Nabokov (0-1-0, 0 SO, 3.05 GAA); Vesa Toskala (no record). Blackhawks - Khabibuli (0-1-0, 0, 5.08). Craig Anderson (no record).

2003-04 SEASON SERIES: Sharks, 2-1-1.

LAST MEETING: Feb. 19, 2004; Sharks, 6-3. At Chicago, Marco Sturm had a goal and two assists, and Marleau and Vincent Damphousse each scored on the power play as the Sharks won the season series.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Sharks - 0-0-0 on the road; Blackhawks - 0-1-0 at home.


Associated Press

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