| LIFE WITHOUT KHABIBULIN |
On Wednesday morning, the Oilers announced that goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin would be undergoing surgery on his back to repair a herniated disc. As a result, he will most likely be lost to the team for the remainder of the 2009-10 regular season.
Following a lengthy and spirited practice at Millennium Place in Sherwood Park, Oilers players and head coach Pat Quinn discussed how the team will cope with the loss of its number one goaltender.
"You just stay focused," stated Sheldon Souray. "We can't worry about who's here and who's not here. The guys who are playing each and every night just have to keep getting better individually and as a team we'll keep trying to grow. There's no sense worrying about who we don't have."
Souray is familiar with Khabibulin's situation, having gone down with a season-ending injury in his first year with the Oilers.
"It happened to me my first year too," Souray said. "You want to go out and prove yourself. He's aproving goaltender who was winning us some games singlehandedly earlier in the year. It's a big loss but we haven't had him for some time now."
Centre Shawn Horcoff also went down with a season-ending injury several years back so he knows the frustration felt by the Oilers netminder.
"I'm sure it's frustrating for him. It's frustrating for everyone," said Horcoff. "It's a good opportunity for the young guys we have here to get some games in and get some experience."
Head coach Pat Quinn felt that the finality of the loss doesn't change much with the team as it is right now. .
"We have been actually responding with our kids anyway. Clearly, he wasn't capable of even coming to the rink and participating in any fashion. It just became official," said Quinn.
"I think based on the fact that we have two young guys - both of them are considering real prospects for the future - (Dubnyk's) here now, we can't let him sit," Quinn remarked.
"I say we'll see some action out of him until the time that we have to do something else," the coach continued. "There's a good chance he'll play tomorrow but that's not decided firmly at this point."
TAMBELLINI WEIGHS IN
Following practice at Millennium Place, Oilers GM Steve Tambellini held a media availability at Rexall Place to talk about the Khabibulin situation.
"Nik felt good at the beginning that it was something he could recover from. It didn't get any worse but it never got any better," said Tambellini. "He gave it eight weeks, visited a couple of doctors - one in Denver and one in Los Angeles."
The General Manager acknowledged that losing the Russian netminder was a huge blow to the team despite Deslauriers' valiant effort to keep the team in games.
"He's our MVP and we miss his presence and his ability, obviously. But it's just something we have to deal with," he said.
Khabibulin has had back problems before, most recently in 2007-08 with Chicago, but Tambellini feels moving forward it won't be an issue.
"Nik has a disc problem. He suffered some issues a couple years ago which were minor at that time. There are many players playing in that dressing room right now with bad backs but maybe not to the extent of this," he said. "He's one of our most fit athletes and there will be no issues with him from that standpoint after this.
QUINN CARRIES THE TORCH
Pat Quinn will carry the Olympic Torch today as part of the route through the City of Edmonton.
"I was asked by VANOC," Quinn said. "They gave me an option of where I could participate and this is terrific for me. A tremendous honour. I was lucky to be in the Olympics two times and have such great memories of that."
Quinn is an ambassador for the Vancouver Olympic committee and mentioned he's very excited to see the upcoming Winter Games in his home country.
"Canadians all across this country have had a chance to carry the Flame. When you watch the daily updates on where our torch is you can really see our national pride."
Asked whether he'll walk or run his 300 metre segment, Quinn didn't hesitate.
"I haven't done a lot of running in awhile. It'll be a fast twitch sort of. I'm going to take my time on it. I want to milk it."
His torch route passes through a segment of Groat Road near Westmount Centre.
"I don't think I've been on Groat Road since 1963," Quinn chuckled.
Author: Marc Ciampa | edmontonoilers.com