Nikolai Khabibulin isn’t going into the 2013-14 campaign with any illusions. At the age of 40 and behind a goaltender that recently won the Stanley Cup and inked a six-year contract extension, Khabibulin doesn’t expect to wrestle away the starting gig.
“It’s an adjustment, for sure, but I’m trying to prepare for every game like I would play, whether I will or not,” Khabibulin told CSN Chicago. “Just in case something happens. When I do that, it’s a little bit easier.”
Khabibulin will need to be ready though, because while he might not be the number one guy anymore, the Chicago Blackhawks are likely to give goaltender Corey Crawford a fair number of games off. Crawford has never played in more than 57 NHL games in a single season, so playing under him might not be the same as serving as Henrik Lundqvist’s or Antti Niemi’s understudy.
While the fate of the Blackhawks don’t rest primarily on his shoulders, how Khabibulin does in those games, and by extension how much Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville feels he can afford to rest Crawford, will be a meaningful factor for Chicago as they attempt to defend the Cup.