It’ll be the battle of the backups tonight in Chicago when Nikolai Khabibulin gets the start for the Blackhawks and Kevin Poulin goes for the visiting New York Islanders.
Neither goalie has made an appearance so far this season.
For 40-year-old Khabibulin, it will be his first regular-season game in a ‘Hawks uniform since April 12, 2009, when he shut out the Red Wings at the United Center.
Poulin started four games for the Isles in 2013, going 1-3-0 with a .893 save percentage. Obviously, getting the nod on the road against the Stanley Cup champs is going to be quite the challenge for the 23-year-old with limited NHL experience.
On top of that, the ‘Hawks should be especially motivated after what happened Wednesday in St. Louis when the Blues scored in the final minute of regulation to win by a goal.
“We have to get that game to overtime,” coach Joel Quenneville said, per CSN Chicago. “Getting one point is one thing; the second is the bonus. Here we are, .500 (1-1-1), and we felt we played three pretty good games. But we have to get that to overtime and go from there, particularly on the road.”
GM says Blue Jackets are ‘off the rails’ right now
Apparently Blue Jackets management is a little shaken by the second 0-3-0 start in franchise history, however.
Columbus GM Jarmo Kekalainen shared his shock and dismay with the Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline on Tuesday.
“I’m surprised how, in just five days, we’ve gone from a very confident group to something that’s the opposite of that,” Kekalainen told The Dispatch on Tuesday. “Our confidence, our game … it’s off the rails right now.
Maybe losing to the Buffalo Sabres stings a little bit extra?
Kekalainen said “there’s no excuse for how we played in Buffalo,” pointing out that every team in the NHL is a “good team.”
Indeed, just about every squad boasts some dangerous weapons if they catch an opponent sleeping.
Portzline goes deeper on Columbus’ recent history of stumbling out of the gate, but consider the foreboding stretch coming up.
Next four games: Three out of four at home Eight games following that: Seven out of eight on the road.
As you can see, winter is coming for Columbus, so they best get things together. All things considered, this is the right time for a wake-up call.
For bonus chuckles, here’s a photo of Kekalainen on a railing.
He entered the building considerably later than usual, but his presence at least opened the door for the possibility of No. 8 suiting up against the San Jose Sharks.
Instead, the Capitals will face the hot-starting Sharks without Ovechkin (personal reasons) and Nicklas Backstrom (injury).
That’s a tall order, yet it’s also an opportunity for Barry Trotz to prove his system is a difference-maker … and that the Capitals have the young players to take up the mantle when the big stars are out
This is how Washington’s forward lines may look tonight:
With Ovechkin out, Caps lines look like this: